Microsoft Takes a Stand against U.S. Federal Government

It should surprise no one that Microsoft takes a stand. They are fighting for their life as a company.

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I know some people who really despise Microsoft due to their use of intellectual property. They will insist the company is untrustworthy. But their opinion is based on specific knowledge that many others never bother to acquire. No matter what betrayals they have gotten away with, if any, they cannot afford to appear untrustworthy to their customer base.

The Federal Government is directly attacking Microsoft’s viability as a business. They are entrusted with private data by clients all over the world. Handing that over to the Federal Government would have extremely costly consequences to Microsoft.

Thus, we read in Windows IT Pro: “Microsoft Defies Court Order, Will Not Give Emails to US Government.”

Despite a federal court order directing Microsoft to turn overseas-held email data to federal authorities, the software giant said Friday it will continue to withhold that information as it waits for the case to wind through the appeals process. The judge has now ordered both Microsoft and federal prosecutors to advise her how to proceed by next Friday, September 5.

Let there be no doubt that Microsoft’s actions in this controversial case are customer-centric. The firm isn’t just standing up to the US government on moral principles. It’s now defying a federal court order.

“Microsoft will not be turning over the email and plans to appeal,” a Microsoft statement notes. “Everyone agrees this case can and will proceed to the appeals court. This is simply about finding the appropriate procedure for that to happen.”

Judge Loretta Preska, the chief of the US District Court in Manhattan ruled on July 31 that Microsoft was required to hand over email messages stored in an Ireland data center to US prosecutors investigating a criminal case. But she suspended the order temporarily amid complaints from international companies—and tech companies in the US—that argued that allowing US authorities to search and seize data held internationally was illegal.

On Friday, however, she lifted that suspension after prosecutors successfully convinced her that her order was not appealable. The removal of the suspension legally requires Microsoft to hand over the email immediately.

This is the first time a technology company has resisted a US search warrant seeking data that is held outside the United States.

The legal basis for Microsoft’s refusal is simple: the U.S. Federal Government has agreements with Ireland to appeal the Irish government when it needs to search an Irish residence or business or any other part of Ireland. Microsoft does not believe it can simply hand over data stored in Ireland because the Federal government orders them to do so.

The NSA has already damaged American businesses abroad who are trying to maintain and win more foreign customers. Trying to grab data from the cloud on the basis of a U.S. warrant is not going to help American computer firms win trust.