A broad array of organizations in technology, media and other fieldsrallied on Monday behind Microsoft’s effort to block American authorities from seizing a customer’s emails stored in Ireland.
The organizations filing supporting briefs in the Microsoft case included Apple, Amazon, Verizon, Fox News, National Public Radio, The Washington Post, CNN and almost two dozen other technology and media companies. A cross-section of trade associations and advocacy groups, from the American Civil Liberties Union to the United States Chamber of Commerce, and 35 computer scientists also signed briefs in the case, which is being considered in New York by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
“Seldom do you see the breadth and depth of legal involvement that we’re seeing today for a case that’s below the Supreme Court,” Bradford L. Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, said in an interview.
The case involves a decision by Microsoft to defy a domestic search warrant seeking emails stored in a Microsoft data center in Dublin. Microsoft has argued that the search warrant could provide a dangerous precedent that is already leading to privacy concerns among customers. The case is especially relevant, the company says, to customers who are considering conducting more of their electronic business in the cloud.
Microsoft has warned that foreign governments could use an adverse ruling in the case to skirt international law and reach into data centers outside their borders to obtain the personal communications of an American journalist.
Verizon, Salesforce.com, Cisco, eBay and Hewlett-Packard warned in their brief that a ruling against Microsoft could hurt their businesses outside the United States by increasing suspicions that their data is easily accessible by the American government.
“It will expose American businesses to legal jeopardy in other countries and damage American businesses economically,” their brief continued. “It will upset our international agreements and undermine international cooperation. And it will spur retaliation by foreign governments, which will threaten the privacy of Americans and non-Americans alike.”
This year, Microsoft failed to persuade a lower court to reverse a judge’s decision to allow the search. A decision by the appeals court in the case is not expected until summer or fall. Many people connected with the case predict it will eventually end up being heard by the Supreme Court.