U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Rueter in Philadelphia has ordered Google to comply with search warrants seeking customer emails stored outside the United States. In a similar case, a federal appeals court had given a totally opposite verdict for Microsoft Corp (source). The judgement says that Google will have to comply with the FBI search warrants seeking access to customer emails even when those emails are stored outside of the U.S.
In the statement the judge said:
Though the retrieval of the electronic data by Google from its multiple data centers abroad has the potential for an invasion of privacy, the actual infringement of privacy occurs at the time of disclosure in the United States.
In another such case around seven months before this case, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York concluded that Microsoft did not have to hand over emails stored on foreign servers to American authorities unless the authorities go through the proper local privacy laws first.
According to Thomas Rueter Google anyway keeps on transferring email data from one server to another so even for some time if the data is transferred to the U.S. servers so that American authorities can access it, it won’t tantamount to a legal seizure. There won’t be a “meaningful interference” and hence, it won’t violate the “possessory interest” of the email user.
Google, of course, has decided to challenge the verdict. The company had initially thought that the previous verdict on Microsoft would be used as a precedence in this case too but it wasn’t. In the plea Google is going to bring up the Microsoft verdict. In an official statement Google said:
The magistrate in this case departed from precedent, and we plan to appeal the decision. We will continue to push back on overbroad warrants.