4th Amendment & Online Storage
With so many people storing information within the cloud,
we feel everyone should be mindful of a controversial ruling made by a New York judge, James Francis. In which digital information stored overseas are honored by US search warrants
This ruling was given after Microsoft was mandated to hand over email accounts of a user which was under invitation for drug trafficking. This digital information was saved to servers in Dublin, Ireland. Microsoft did not roll over but instead challenged authoritys of the goverment, seeing this data was seized outside United States borders.
The US Goverment responded in briefs that online storage is not covered by the same type of Fourth Amendment protections as data stored in the physical world.
“overseas records must be disclosed domestically when a valid subpoena, order, or warrant compels their production. The disclosure of records under such circumstances has never been considered tantamount to a physical search under Fourth Amendment principles, and Microsoft is mistaken to argue that the SCA provides for an overseas search here. As there is no overseas search or seizure, Microsoft’s reliance on principles of extra-territoriality and comity falls wide of the mark.” Federal Brief PDF
From the Justice Departments point of view, this law may be necessary. When you think about it, most electronic communication go over state lines so when a crime is committed it’s easily a federal offence and when they go over country lines it can easily become a Homeland Security problem.
I admit many people consider hosting out of country servers to do shady things these days. Having something like this in place will make them think twice. However, there can be a wide-range of implication such as conflicts with foreign data protection laws and the potential for damaging international relations.