Despite a recent contradictory Google ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied a rehearing for a July decision in a privacy rights case that pitted Microsoft against the Justice Department. In July, a court ruled that a warrant issued under the Stored Communications Act (SCA) cannot force U.S. companies to produce data stored in servers outside the United States.
In late January, Microsoft’s victory was reaffirmed when the federal appeals court declined to rehear Microsoft Corp. v. United States, in which the U.S. Justice Department was denied the ability to access customer data stored on a Microsoft server in Ireland.
However, in a separate but similar case in February, a U.S. judge ordered Google to hand over e-mails stored outside the United States to comply with an FBI search warrant related to a domestic fraud investigation.
Prosecutors wanted an en banc rehearing of the Microsoft case in front of all the judges in that court. However, the Manhattan court shot down that effort by a vote of 9 to 4.
“We recognize at the same time that in many ways the SCA has been left behind by technology,” U.S. Circuit Judge Susan Carney wrote in a 14-page opinion explaining the order. “It is overdue for a congressional revision that would continue to protect privacy but would more effectively balance concerns of international comity with law enforcement needs and service provider obligations in the global context in which this case arose.”
Following the conflicting rulings, legal experts say the Supreme Court ultimately may have to step in to determine how to resolve future cases involving law enforcement access to e-mails stored on servers outside the United States.