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18 April 2018 at 08:56 BST

US Supreme Court declares Microsoft email privacy case moot

The US Supreme Court ends controversial email privacy case citing the Cloud Act.

Orhan Cam

The US Supreme Court has declared a Microsoft email privacy case moot, stating in a three-page order that: 'No live dispute remains between the parties over the issue.” The dispute centred on a 2013 investigation when law enforcement sought access to emails suspected of furthering illegal drug trafficking, but they were stored outside the United States, in Ireland. The court had to consider the question 'Whether a United States provider of email services must comply with a probable-cause based warrant issued under 18 U.S.C. 2703 by making disclosure in the United States of electronic communications within that provider's control, even if the provider has decided to store that material abroad.'

The Cloud Act

The court cited the newly passed Cloud Act signed by President Donald Trump in March. The Act essentially answers the question, stating: 'A[service provider] shall comply with the obligations of this chapter to preserve, backup, or disclose the contents of a wire or electronic communication and any record or other information pertaining to a customer or subscriber within such provider's possession, custody, or control, regardless of whether such communication, record, or other information is located within or outside of the United States.'

Privacy protection

The bipartisan Act was supported by Microsoft and other major technology companies, but opposed by civil liberties groups arguing it lacked sufficient privacy protections. In a statement, Microsoft president Brad Smith said: '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.'


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