Microsoft wins landmark US appeal over emails stored in Ireland

The tech company has said it is grateful for the support it received from the Irish Government

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Microsoft has thanked the Irish Government for its support following a landmark US court ruling over emails stored on Irish servers.

Reuters reports that the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the US government cannot force Microsoft or other tech companies to hand over emails stored on servers in other countries.

Today's decision overturned a previous one, in which Microsoft had been ordered to give the US justice department access to a customer's email account.

The account was suspected of having been used in connection with drugs trafficking.

Microsoft refused the order, saying it would need to "access customer content that it stores and maintains in Ireland".

The appeals court today ruled that the US Congress did not intend for warrant provisions to apply 'extraterritorially'.  

In a statement, Brad Smith - Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer - said: "We obviously welcome today’s decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

"The decision is important for three reasons: it ensures that people’s privacy rights are protected by the laws of their own countries; it helps ensure that the legal protections of the physical world apply in the digital domain; and it paves the way for better solutions to address both privacy and law enforcement needs."

He also said that the company is grateful for the support it has received, "including the filing of amicus briefs in the case by 28 technology and media companies, 23 trade associations and advocacy groups, 35 of the nation’s leading computer scientists and the government of Ireland itself."

The news has been welcomed by digital privacy advocates.

Open Rights Group's Legal Director, Myles Jackman, argued: “States should not arbitrarily reach across borders just because they feel they can bully companies into doing so."