In a prior post, we reported that Southern District of New York Magistrate Judge Francis determined that Microsoft must comply with a U.S. Government’s warrant seeking a user’s email content, even though the emails are stored in Microsoft’s datacenter in Dublin, Ireland. After the lower court declined to quash the subpoena and held Microsoft in contempt for failing to turn over customer content stored abroad, Microsoft appealed to the Second Circuit. On July 14, 2016 the appeals court issued an extensive opinion reversing the lower court’s ruling.
The Second Circuit held that the obligation of an Internet Service Provider (“ISP”) like Microsoft to disclose to the U.S. Government customer information or records is governed by the Stored Communications Act (“SCA”), which was passed as part of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 and codified at 18 U.S.C. §§ 2701-2712 (“ECPA”). The warrant in this case, obtained under SCA Section 2703(a) after a showing of probable cause as required by the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (see Fed. R. Crim. P. 41(d)(1)), authorized the search and seizure of information associated with a specified web-based e-mail account that is “stored at premises owned, maintained, controlled, or operated by Microsoft Corporation.”