U.S. judge says search warrants extend to data stored outside the U.S. We disagree.

In January, we blogged about our view that the U.S. government cannot lawfully demand that Verizon turn over our customers’ data stored in data centers outside the United States. We also explained that if the government were to do so, we would challenge such a demand in court. As we noted in our Transparency Report in January, we did not receive any such demands in 2013; nor have we received any thus far in 2014. And, as we noted in our blog post, we do not expect to receive these types of demands. However, a recent court case involving Microsoft, while presenting a different set of facts than what we wrote about in January, involves similar issues and so gives us an opportunity to weigh in.

Last month, a magistrate judge in New York ruled that the United States government could use a search warrant to obtain an individual customer’s emails that Microsoft stored in Dublin, Ireland. The decision is contrary to well-accepted law that U.S. courts are not empowered to issue warrants for foreign searches. As important, the decision failed to take into account substantial international commerce and policy implications of an “extra-territorial” warrant. 

It is worth noting that the consumer Internet-based email services at issue in the case before this magistrate judge are quite different from cloud computing and hosting services offered to business customers. We do not believe the magistrate judge’s decision would apply to Verizon’s non-U.S. cloud services, where these overseas business customers process and/or store their data directly on servers outside the U.S.

Our customers’ privacy is of paramount importance and we will fight to protect it. Microsoft has stated it will appeal the decision to a district court judge. At that time, we will seek permission to file in the district court to explain why we also disagree with the magistrate judge's decision.