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U.S. Judge Rules Google Must Turn Over Foreign Emails, Unlike Microsoft,

U.S. Judge Rules Google Must Turn Over Foreign Emails, Unlike Microsoft,
While in a case concerning Microsoft Corp, a federal appeals court that reached the conclusion which entailed the authorities not getting permission to search warrants to access digital details of consumers, in a similar case a U.S. judge has ordered Google to comply with search warrants seeking customer emails stored outside the United States.
As part of a domestic fraud probe did not qualify as a seizure, transferring emails from a foreign server so FBI agents could review them, ruled U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Rueter in Philadelphia on Friday.
Justifying the order the judge said this order was given because the the account holder's "possessory interest" in the data sought had "no meaningful interference" from the order and the search warrant.
"Though the retrieval of the electronic data by Google from its multiple data centers abroad has the potential for an invasion of privacy, the actual infringement of privacy occurs at the time of disclosure in the United States," Rueter wrote.
"The magistrate in this case departed from precedent, and we plan to appeal the decision. We will continue to push back on overbroad warrants," Google, a unit of Mountain View, California-based Alphabet Inc, said in a statement on Saturday.
About seven months ago, a ruling said that Microsoft could not be forced to turn over emails stored on a server in Dublin, Ireland that U.S. investigators sought in a narcotics case. The ruling was given by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.
Both the American Civil Liberties Union and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, dozens of technology and media companies and privacy advocates had welcomed that decision which was taken on last July 14.
A vote not to revisit the decision was taken by the same appeals court on Jan. 24. Saying the decision hurt law enforcement and raised national security concerns, the four dissenting judges called on the U.S. Supreme Court or Congress to reverse it.
Many technology companies and privacy advocates consider outdated the Stored Communications Act, a 1986 federal law and both the cases had involved warrants issued under that act.
Google said in the court papers that it did not necessarily know where particular emails might be stored as it sometimes breaks up emails into pieces to improve its network's performance.
By turning over data that Google knew were stored in the United States, the company said that it believed it had complied with the warrants it received, Google said while relying on the Microsoft decision.
According to Rueter's ruling, for disclosures of user data in criminal matters, Google receives more than 25,000 requests annually from U.S. authorities.
The cases are In re: Search Warrant No. 16-960-M-01 to Google and In re: Search Warrant No. 16-1061-M to Google, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Nos. 16-mj-00960, 16-mj-01061

Christopher J. Mitchell

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