Supreme Court Looks At Digital Privacy

Answering the Justice Department’s request, the Supreme Court will decide whether authorities can require a U.S. technology firm to hand over electronic information stored overseas. Microsoft has been the focus of the dispute after winning a case on the subject last year. There, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals found that the company was not required to hand over data stored in Ireland under an American warrant.

Some lower courts have held otherwise, but the Supreme Court is being urged to overturn the Second Circuit decision as soon as possible. This issue is not unusual in the law today, as technology is advancing faster than Congress can draft legislation. The law on this subject, The Stored Communications Act, is over thirty years old. It was drafted in the 80s and did not anticipate companies being able to store data all over the planet.

Good Arguments Exist on Both Sides

Furthermore, both sides have good arguments. Law enforcement officials argue that the Second Circuit decision is crippling investigations and will continue to do so in the future. A massive amount of evidence will become inaccessible to investigators if a company can decide to store information overseas to hide it. Technology firms respond that an American warrant going after data held in foreign countries is applying American law overseas, and there is no evidence in this law that Congress intended that. They also argue it would give other nations the right to request information stored in the U.S., which would open a floodgate of hacking attempts on U.S. entities.

Is Legislation the Only Way Forward?

Many argue that the decision is not for the courts and the only solution is Congress drafting up-to-date legislation on the matter. However this issue is decided, it will have far-reaching implications in business, technology, law enforcement, and digital privacy for years to come.