Dublin-based tech giant awaits US court ruling

A US appeals court will today hear arguments in a case that would allow federal agents to “break down the door” of Microsoft’s Dublin facility with a simple search warrant.

US law enforcement, pursuing a drug case and using a warrant, wants the tech giant to hand over data stored in Ireland, bypassing an international treaty between the countries.

Lower courts have ruled in favour of allowing the US access emails and other data, a move Microsoft described as “allowing federal agents to break down the door” of its building in Ireland. The company argued the data was covered by Irish and European privacy laws.

A ruling against Microsoft will allow US law enforcement access to data held by US companies anywhere in the world. It has particular implications for Ireland, home to so many data-heavy technology companies.

The Irish Government has, belatedly, joined a chorus of tech companies and privacy advocates in support of Microsoft.

The US justice department has, so far successfully, argued federal law “empowers government officials to obtain records that US service providers store abroad”. A search warrant is valid, it said.

Co-operation with the US seeking information for criminal prosecutions is covered by Irish and European mutual legal assistance treaties and a 2008 Criminal Justice Act.

The oral arguments are being heard in a federal appeals court in Manhattan, with a decision due to be handed down within a few months.


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