​Ireland: US must act through us to take data from Irish servers

​Ireland: US must act through us to take data from Irish servers
Ireland is siding with Microsoft in its legal battle with the US over personal data stored on a company server in Dublin, which a US court ordered to be handed over. Ireland says American justice should respect international law and national sovereignty.

The jurisdiction contest started last year when a US court issued a search warrant in a drug-related investigation, which demanded the surrender of a Microsoft client’s emails. The hurdle, however, was that the data was stored in another state, so the tech giant refused to cooperate and challenged the demand, saying that the court had breached the scope of its jurisdiction.

The US Department of Justice argued that the physical location of the data was irrelevant as long as Microsoft could access it from its office in the US, with the case currently residing in the New York Federal Court.

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Last week 10 US-based groups, including tech firms, online privacy advocates and prominent media outlets, filed briefs in New York in support of Microsoft. Now the government of Ireland has done the same, saying the US should respect the republic’s sovereignty and act according to international law in criminal investigations.

"Ireland has a genuine and legitimate interest in potential infringements by other states of its sovereign rights with respect to its jurisdiction over its territory," a court brief filed by Ireland on Tuesday reads.

The document said that the Irish government is cooperating with other nations, including the US, in their investigation of crimes, but that those nations should act according to international treaties on data exchange, if they want to get evidence held within Irish jurisdiction.

“Ireland would be pleased to consider, as expeditiously as possible, a request under the treaty, should one be made,” the document said.

The case also drew attention from the European Parliament, as German MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht filed separate court briefs in support of Microsoft’s position.

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"The protection of privacy and personal data in EU law is not intended to stop the use and exchange of data. Its purpose is to regulate the transfer and storage of data, preserving the ability of the data subject to control his personal data," Albrecht said in the filing.

"The decision of the District Court effectively permits this carefully constructed regime to be sidestepped. It has far-reaching implications for the handling of personal data by the globalized technology industry."

The protection of personal data from governments has become a major issue for tech firms and governments in the wake of public exposure of massive electronic surveillance programs by the US and its allies by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Ireland doubled this year the budget of the data protection commissioner and created a minister-level position for the issue.

“The right of individuals to the protection of their personal data is an essential foundation for modern society and the growing digital economy,” the new Irish government minister for data protection, Dara Murphy, said this week regarding the Microsoft case.

“We must ensure that individuals and organizations can have confidence in the rules and processes that have been put in place to safeguard privacy.”