Google must turn over emails from customers outside America, orders USA judge

The tech giant plans to claim the decision to stand for the right to privacy of its account members.

US Magistrate Judge Thomas Rueter in Philadelphia ruled that Google must obey domestic search warrants and hand over data that is stored overseas.

Google already has intentions to appeal the ruling, releasing a statement that noted the magistrate's departure from the aforementioned precedent. Relying on the Microsoft decision, Google said it believed it had complied with the warrants it received, by turning over data it knew were stored in the US.

In a ruling in December a year ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation had received legal hacking abilities from the Congress, which theoretically can be used by the secret service agency to hack devices located anywhere in the world.

Google was betting on a January 24th ruling by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that it would not rehear the US Justice Department's arguments for why it needed access to user data from Microsoft's servers located in Ireland. In the Microsoft case, the data requested was stored on Irish servers. Rather, there would be "no meaningful interference" with the account holder's (which is to say Google's) "possessory interest" in the data in question.

The court thinks that transferring data from a foreign country server to the company's California data center did not mean it is a seizure.

This is a major problem for Google and the tech industry as a whole, Gizmodo reports since these rulings are being made via laws that have been obsolete for decades.

The architecture of Google's system that partitions user data into shards does not let the company establish with any certainty which foreign country's sovereignty would be implicated when the company accesses the communications to produce it in response to a legal process, making it hard for law enforcement to look for other means such as Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) between countries to get access to the data.

According to The Guardian, the recovery of the electronic information by Google from its different server centers overseas has the potential for an intrusion of security and invasion of privacy. According to the judge, while Google's retrieval of data from foreign servers might qualify as an act of privacy invasion, the actual infringement "occurs at the time of disclosure in the United States". Both the Microsoft and Google cases invoke a 1986 federal law known as the Stored Communications Act.

Circuit Court Judge Sarah Carney said: "We think Microsoft has the better of the argument".

The decision puts the privacy of Google users who aren't American citizens at risk.

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