Statement of Support Related to Email Privacy and Government Search

Background

Microsoft is currently engaged in a legal challenge to the U.S. government’s demand that Microsoft turn over customer emails stored in a company data center in Ireland. This data center serves some Microsoft customers outside of the U.S.

The U.S. government is arguing that emails stored in the cloud are business records of the cloud provider, not the private documents of customers. Business records do not have the same legal protections of private communications, and the federal government is asserting that it has the authority to access emails stored anywhere in the world.

This issue has significant ethical and business implications. If the U.S. can legally obtain documents from anywhere in the world, other governments worldwide may assert the same privilege. The UK government has already passed a law asserting its right to request that cloud providers produce emails stored anywhere in the world. Government access to private communications worldwide could impede commerce, international communications, cloud innovation, and the free expression of ideas.

For more background and commentary on this issue, please see the following:

In view of this situation, please consider adding your name to the statement below.

Statement

Preamble: People will only use technology if they trust it.  Any regulations and laws must protect public safety, preserve fundamental freedoms and promote trust in technology.  As technology professionals, we understand the importance of preserving this balance to enable our industry to grow and prosper.

By adding my name below, I am endorsing the following:

  • Personal information stored digitally in the cloud should have the same privacy protections as analog information stored on paper.
  • Under the protections from unreasonable search and seizure provided by the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. government should only be able to obtain cloud based records, such as email, with a search warrant.
  • If U.S. authorities want to obtain emails stored in other countries, they must proceed through applicable international treaties and follow U.S. law.
  • Higher legal protections—requiring a court-approved search warrant—should protect all digital private communications, such as email, texts, and instant messages.
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