US Supreme Court drops Microsoft privacy case

Heather Parry

By Heather Parry

18 April 2018

On Tuesday, a US Supreme Court officially dropped the case between Microsoft Corp and the US Justice Department after Congress passed new legislation to address the issues concerned.

The dispute had been about whether prosecutors in the US could force tech companies to give them access to data stored in other countries, on servers owned privately by those companies.

The case came about in response to a US judge issuing a domestic warrant for access to data stored on a Microsoft server in Ireland. Microsoft challenged this warrant, becoming the first US company to argue against a request for user information stored overseas.

On March 22, President Trump signed into law the Cloud Act, which specifies that judges in the US can issue warrants for data stored overseas, but that the companies holding that data can object if the warrant presents a conflict with laws in the country the data is stored.

This legislation was supported by Microsoft and other tech companies, with Microsoft President Brad Smith commenting:

We welcome the Supreme Court’s ruling ending our case in light of the Cloud Act being signed into to law. Our goal has always been a new law and international agreements with strong privacy protections that govern how law enforcement gathers digital evidence across borders.

Privacy advocates opposed the bill, arguing that it did not offer adequate privacy protections for users.

However, the case was declared moot in an opinion from the court which said the following:

No live dispute remains between the parties over the issue.

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