Privacy Wars: Apple, Microsoft and the U.S. Government

by NewsEditor_ on September 10th, 2015 in Industry and Security News.

This week both Apple and Microsoft faced legal conflicts with the US government over access to user data. As reported by the New York Times, the US Justice Department recently requested access to messages on Apple’s iMessage application for an ongoing investigation. Apple did not comply with the court order, citing the high level of encryption in its iMessage system and their subsequent inability to decrypt the user data. 

Yesterday Microsoft lost a third legal appeal after the US Department of Justice requested access to a Hotmail account originating in Dublin, Ireland. US prosecutors obtained a warrant for the email account in December 2013 for the purposes of a drug trafficking investigation. Microsoft turned over the customer’s email address book, which was stored in the United States, but refused to provide access to the email account itself citing the location of the account on a server in Dublin, Ireland. According to Microsoft, the fact that the account information is stored in Dublin precludes the legal jurisdiction of the US government and refused to comply with the initial warrant. According to the Irish Times, they directed investigators to seek a warrant from an Irish court instead. 

The Guardian reports that the US Department of Justice “contends that emails should be treated as business records” whereas Microsoft argues “the emails are the customers’ personal documents and a US warrant does not carry the authority needed to compel the company to hand it over.” The case is seen as precedent-setting, opening the door for governments seeking access to digital information to extend their jurisdiction outside geographical boundaries. Several organizations filed supplementary documents for the trial in support of Microsoft’s case, including Apple, Verizon, NPR and the Guardian. Joshua Rosenkranz, representing Microsoft in the case, told the court, “We would go crazy if China did this to us.”

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