Microsoft Defies Federal US Court Order To Disclose Customer’s Overseas Email

Microsoft is flat out ignoring a federal court order to provide U.S. prosecutors access to a customer's emails being held on a server in Ireland. For Microsoft, this boils down to a matter of trust with its users, and so long as the case continues to maneuver through the appeals process, the Redmond outfit has no intention of complying with the order.

Judge Loretta Preska, chief of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, ruled back on July 31 that Microsoft was required to hand over the email messages to U.S. prosecutors investigating a criminal case. However, she temporarily suspended the order so that Microsoft could appeal.

Prosecutors have since argued that her order was not a "final, appealable order," and since Microsoft hadn't been held in contempt, no reason exists to enforce the stay. Preska agreed with that assessment, saying her order "merely confirmed the government's temporary forbearing of its right to stay enforcement of the order it secured," and that "the fact that the court has not closed the case cuts against Microsoft's argument" that her order was final and could be appealed.

Image Source: Flickr (Robert Scoble)

In other words, the prosecutors got their wish in terms of having the judge side with them and order Microsoft to hand over emails, but as far as Microsoft is concerned, federal authorities don't have jurisdiction over data stored outside the U.S., giving it legal ground to ignore the order.

"Microsoft will not be turning over the email and plans to appeal," a Microsoft statement notes. "Everyone agrees this case can and will proceed to the appeals court. This is simply about finding the appropriate procedure for that to happen."

This seems to be the first time a company has refused a U.S. search warrant for data being held outside the country. As such, the judge ordered both sides to advise by September 5 how to proceed.

Thumbnail Image Source: Flickr (Brian)