Thursday, 05 April 2018 10:26

Microsoft seeks time to study fresh DoJ warrant for emails

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Microsoft has filed a motion in the US Supreme Court, agreeing with a contention made by the US Department of Justice on Tuesday that a case, filed by the DoJ to obtain emails stored by one of the company's customers in Ireland, is now moot.

The company made the move after the DoJ filed a motion seeking dismissal of the ongoing case over the emails, withdrew the original warrant and issued a fresh warrant to Microsoft asking it to release the emails.

The release was sought under a new law, the CLOUD (Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data) Act, that was signed into law by President Donald Trump on 23 March. The Act changed the existing law so that law-enforcement warrants apply to data stored anywhere by US-based tech firms.

The emails in question were initially sought by the Department of Justice in 2013, through a warrant issued under the Stored Communications Act, with the reported reason being that they were to do with a probe into drug trafficking.

Microsoft sought to quash the order but a magistrate judge refused to do so in April 2014. The company appealed the verdict to a federal district judge but the order was upheld, and the court said the company was in contempt of court for refusing to hand over the emails.

In July 2016, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit based in New York reversed this decision by the Southern District of New York court which had held Microsoft in contempt of court for refusing to hand over the customer emails.

And in January 2017, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in a 4-4 decision, refused to rehear an appeal of its own decision.

The case then went to the Supreme Court which held its first hearing in February, with a verdict expected in June.

In its motion, filed on Tuesday, Microsoft said: "The government has now withdrawn the warrant that was at the centre of this dispute, and obtained a new warrant issued under the CLOUD Act. That action moots this case. Microsoft will, in the ordinary course, evaluate the new warrant as it evaluates all warrants that law-enforcement entities serve on it.

"Meanwhile, Microsoft agrees with the government that there is no longer a live case or controversy between the parties with respect to the question presented, which involves interpreting the prior version of the Stored Communications Act."

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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