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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

December 23, 2014 at 3:37 PM

Ireland weighs in on Microsoft email privacy case

The roster of folks speaking up about Microsoft’s closely watched data privacy court case now includes a government.

Ireland on Tuesday filed court papers backing elements of Microsoft’s appeal of a U.S. court order that the company turn over emails stored in a Dublin data center.

The case stems from a warrant a U.S. judge signed last December ordering Microsoft to turn over the contents of an email account. Microsoft challenged the order, arguing that because the underlying email data was stored in a data center in Ireland, U.S. prosecutors lacked the power to demand those documents.

The government, Microsoft said, should instead ask Irish officials for help retrieving the data under the terms of an existing legal assistance treaty.

Federal judges twice this year ruled against Microsoft’s arguments, raising alarm among data privacy advocates skeptical of the power claimed by U.S. law enforcement to monitor and reach into the internet.  (For more, here’s my story on how the case developed, and our update when Microsoft touted the level of support it received, from Apple to the ACLU, for its appeal last week.)

“The right of individuals to the protection of their personal data is an essential foundation for modern society and the growing digital economy,” Dara Murphy, Ireland’s minister for data protection, said in a statement. “We must ensure that individuals and organisations can have confidence in the rules and processes that have been put in place to safeguard privacy.”

In its court filing, Ireland said U.S. courts were obligated to respect Irish sovereignty. The Irish government’s lawyers also said they would “be pleased to consider, as expeditiously as possible,” a request for the data at issue in the court case.

Murphy said Ireland and the U.S. cooperate closely on criminal matters. The legal framework set up by the treaty between the two countries “remains the preferred avenue for such cooperation, including for the transfer of data,” Murphy said.

Comments | More in Public policy & issues | Topics: microsoft, privacy

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