In the first decision of its kind, a federal judge ruled this week that the U.S. government has the authority to force cyber-companies to hand over customers' emails and other digital data, even when that data is stored overseas.
Issued by U.S. Magistrate Judge James Francis in New York, the decision pertained to a case in which Microsoft was given a warrant to search the email account of one of its clients whose email data is stored in a server located in Dublin, Ireland.
Microsoft challenged the warrant on the grounds that the U.S. government does not have jurisdiction to search client data held outside of the U.S.
Francis ruled that if the U.S. government were forced to coordinate with other countries and follow their laws when obtaining such data, "the burden on the government would be substantial, and law enforcement efforts would be seriously impeded," Reuters reports.
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Yet, Microsoft released a statement arguing, "A U.S. prosecutor cannot obtain a U.S. warrant to search someone's home located in another country, just as another country's prosecutor cannot obtain a court order in her home country to conduct a search in the United States."
The corporation vowed to appeal the decision.
The precedent-setting case is likely to have far-reaching ramifications as concerns over online privacy continue to rise around the world, following the revelations of NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden.
Microsoft and other cyber-giants have fallen under a firestorm of criticism following revelations they helped the NSA spy on the internet communications of millions of people.