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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.

Category: Legal issues
February 12, 2015 at 4:48 PM

Senators move to limit government’s ability to grab data abroad

Congress will have another crack at a data privacy topic close to Microsoft’s heart.

A trio of Senators on Thursday introduced a bill that would limit the scope of U.S. law enforcement to reach data stored abroad.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch and Dean Heller, and Democratic Sen. Chris Coons, would amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to prevent prosecutors from grabbing data stored abroad unless the owner of the data was a U.S. person or company. The measure would also give courts the ability to void or modify warrants seeking foreign-stored data from service providers if the court finds that turning that data over would violate the laws of a foreign country.

Hatch introduced the same bill — dubbed the LEADS Act — last year, but it didn’t go anywhere before Congress adjourned. LEADS stands, clumsily, for “Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad.”

Microsoft, caught between government demands and its effort to reassure customers that their data is free from improper government collection, has campaigned for such a policy tweak.

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February 9, 2015 at 4:52 PM

Microsoft, Samsung settle Android patent fee dispute

Microsoft and Samsung won’t duke it out in court after all.

The two technology giants on Monday say they settled a 6-month-old court battle concerning fees Samsung owed Microsoft for manufacturing phones running the Android  mobile operating system.

“Samsung and Microsoft are pleased to announce that they have ended their contract dispute in U.S. court” as well as related arbitration overseen by the International Chamber of Commerce, Microsoft Deputy General Counsel David Howard and Samsung Executive Vice President Jaewan Chi said in a brief statement on Microsoft’s website.

They didn’t detail the terms of the agreement. Representatives of both companies declined to comment beyond the statement.

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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.

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December 18, 2014 at 10:03 AM

Deal expired, Microsoft stops offering Europeans other browsers

Another of Microsoft’s antitrust battles is behind the company.

Microsoft put nearly two decades of major antitrust scrutiny to bed in 2009 with a deal with European regulators. The European Union had found that Microsoft used Windows’ dominance of PCs to gain users for the Internet Explorer Web browser. Microsoft was required to offer Windows users a choice of browsers to demonstrate the variety of other options available.

The agreement didn’t go entirely smoothly, with what Microsoft called a technical error that kept the browser selection option off some editions of Windows 7, resulting in a $733 million fine levied in 2013.

Now, with the five-year timeline of the deal lapsed, the Web portion of that choice portal, browserchoice.eu, went dark.

A screenshot of Microsoft's browser choice website.

A screenshot of Microsoft’s browser choice website.

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Comments | More in | Topics: antitrust, european union, internet explorer

December 15, 2014 at 9:50 AM

Amazon, HP, eBay join Microsoft bandwagon in warrant case

As extensively telegraphed by Microsoft, the company’s cast of supporters in its legal fight over a warrant seeking a customer’s emails just got a whole lot bigger.

Microsoft was joined by Amazon.com as well as Silicon Valley stalwarts Hewlett-Packard and eBay. Apple, AT&T,  Cisco and Verizion, which all supported Microsoft in its lower court case, also weighed in again.

Google, a leader in the cloud-computing realm along with Microsoft and Amazon.com, was among the notable technology companies that haven’t weighed in.

Microsoft in December 2013 was ordered by a federal judge in New York to turn over a user’s emails. Microsoft, finding the emails were stored in its Irish data center, refused, setting off the court case now awaiting a hearing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

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December 15, 2014 at 7:28 AM

Microsoft set to tout support in Ireland email warrant case

Microsoft this morning is going to broadcast the level of support it’s receiving in an email privacy court case. Literally.

The company’s general counsel, Brad Smith, is hosting a webcast event at Microsoft’s Times Square offices starting at 8 a.m. Pacific time. The panel, moderated by former ABC news anchor Charlie Gibson, is slated to feature other figures from trade and advocacy groups representing the tech industry, civil liberties and press freedoms.

The webcast will be accessible from Microsoft’s news site. Its worth keeping tabs on the site Microsoft rolled out as a sort of document depository for the case.  

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December 8, 2014 at 11:20 AM

Microsoft brief details company’s rebuff of U.S. search of Irish servers

If U.S. prosecutors can reach into a Microsoft server in Ireland and retrieve emails stored there, what’s to stop a German court from ordering a German bank to open a safe deposit box in its New York City branch?

That premise kicks off Microsoft’s latest salvo in its legal fight against a U.S. warrant seeking a customer’s email stored in Ireland:

Officers of the local Stadtpolizei investigating a suspected leak to the press descend on Deutsche Bank headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany. They serve a warrant to seize a bundle of private letters that a New York Times reporter is storing in a safe deposit box at a Deutsche Bank USA branch in Manhattan. The bank complies by ordering the New York branch manager to open the reporter’s box with a master key, rummage through it, and fax the private letters to the Stadtpolizei.

Federal authorities ordered Microsoft in December 2013 to turn over a customer’s emails and other data prosecutors were seeking as part of a narcotics investigation.

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November 26, 2014 at 11:03 AM

China charges Microsoft $137 million in back taxes

Microsoft’s testy relationship with China just got a bit tougher.

The Chinese government has levied $137 million in back taxes and interest against the company, according to a report by China’s Xinhua state news service.

The report doesn’t identify Microsoft by name, labeling the target of the fine as “M,” described as a world-renowned U.S.-based company that started its Chinese subsidiary in 1995. Microsoft launched Microsoft (China) Co Ltd. in Beijing in 1995.

Xinhua’s report said that the company’s Chinese unit was losing money on paper, even as the Chinese subsidiaries of other firms in the industry were profitable. The investigation, Xinhua said, found the company was shipping its profits overseas in avoidance of domestic taxes.

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November 24, 2014 at 1:40 PM

Microsoft sues IRS for details of tax probe contract

Microsoft is suing the Internal Revenue Service in an effort to get details of an agreement between the tax regulator and a law firm examining how Microsoft tallied its sales between subsidiaries.

The underlying tax matter is a big one for Microsoft. At issue is the IRS’s look at “transfer pricing,” or how companies charge for goods and services bought and sold between a company and its international subsidiaries.

Microsoft says the IRS is looking over the company’s income tax returns for its fiscal years 2004 through 2009. The IRS in May entered into a $2.1 million contract with law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan to provide services related to the tax audit, Microsoft said in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. Quinn Emanuel says it specializes in business litigation and arbitration.

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