Apple, Cisco join Microsoft’s fight against US warrant for email stored overseas

Apple and Cisco have backed Microsoft’s fight against a US warrant demanding it hand over email stored overseas.

The two tech heavyweights filed a joint amicus curae brief on Friday supporting Microsoft’s appeal against a warrant ordering it to hand over email stored in its Irish data centres to US law enforcement.

As outlined in filings obtained by Tech Crunch and posted on Sunday, Cisco and Apple are concerned the warrant Microsoft faces could put their non-US operations in legal limbo when faced with warrants issued by courts abroad. 

Microsoft is challenging a warrant it was served last December by a New York magistrate under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act in relation to a drug trade investigation.

Last week, Microsoft argued that US courts and the government should use mutual legal assistance treaties (MLAT) when local law enforcement investigate a domestic crime where information is offshore.

In April, the magistrate that issued the warrant denied Microsoft’s bid to quash it, noting it was a hybrid between a warrant and subpoena: while it was served on probable cause by a judge as a warrant would be, like a lower order subpoena it didn't permit US law enforcement to enter Microsoft’s property outside the US.

The special type of warrant is meant to cater to online investigations, however Microsoft contends the rules that apply to physical warrants should apply online too.

While Microsoft last week called the government’s position on ECPA warrants “extraordinary”, in April its deputy general counsel David Howard noted that Microsoft was fighting against the “status quo”.

AT&T, Verizon and the Electronic Frontiers Foundation have also backed Microsoft's position.

Read more: Apple randomises MAC addresses in iOS 8, killing off key ad-tracking tool

Microsoft’s and its peers’ resistance to the warrant comes amid a push by US tech companies for US national security surveillance law reform following disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden — many of which implicated the companies in the government’s surveillance activities. 

Apple, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft joined a campaign by internet companies for international surveillance law reform last December.

Following reports this year that the NSA intercepted and planted backdoors in networking equipment en route to customers, Cisco CEO John Chambers in December called on US president Barack Obama to implement new rules to help US companies re-instil trust in them among foreign customers. 

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

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