European Union Expresses Concern About Microsoft Email Privacy Case

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2014-08-09 Print this article Print
European Union Privacy

The prosecutor also didn't want to use another process, which was to issue a subpoena, because the subject of the search might find out about it.

A U.S. District Court magistrate authorized the warrant, and Microsoft went to court to try to quash the warrant. But, on July 31, Judge Preska upheld the warrant but stayed her order so that Microsoft could appeal.

The EU, however, feels that such agreements should be honored. "In the context of the negotiations on the umbrella agreement on data protection in the area of law enforcement and judicial cooperation, the commission has asked the U.S. to undertake commitments in that regard in order to avoid these potential conflicts of laws," the spokesperson told eWEEK in an email response.

eWEEK contacted the U.S. Department of Justice to see if there was a better explanation as to why the prosecutor was determined to enforce the warrant despite the existing treaty procedure between the United States and EU. "We'll reserve any comment for court," spokesperson Peter Carr told eWEEK when asked for a comment.

Meanwhile, the EC is keeping tabs on the activities in the federal courts as Microsoft appeals the July ruling. "The commission will carefully assess this judgment and any future development of this case in view of possible implications for the ongoing negotiations with the U.S.," the EC spokesperson told eWEEK.

Those negotiations are going on with the U.S. Department of State. However, the State Department has not issued a comment on the case in response to eWEEK's inquiries.

The European Union is further strengthening its privacy protections, partially in response to challenges such as the recent court decision. Specifically, new reforms to European privacy laws will protect data in the EU, even when the company holding the data isn't based in Europe.

"The proposed reform of EU data protection rules will ensure that EU rules apply to all companies, even those not established in the EU, whenever they handle personal data of individuals in the EU. This principle has received strong backing, both from the European Parliament and member states," the EC spokesperson told eWEEK.

Because of the comparative strength of European privacy laws versus those in the United States, American companies are at a growing disadvantage when competing internationally.

If Microsoft loses this case, it's a safe bet that non-U.S. companies are going to decline to use Microsoft or any other U.S. company as a safe place to store their data. After all, if international law and treaties can be ignored with impunity, they'd be crazy to risk it.



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