Microsoft warns of global ‘free-for-all’ nightmare

10 Sep 2015

Amid the ongoing court case between Microsoft and the US government surrounding the request to hand over customer emails from a server in Ireland, the tech giant has warned that a “global free-for-all” could ensue.

“We would go crazy if China did this to us,” argued Joshua Rosenkrantz, a Microsoft lawyer, when addressing the US Court of Appeals.

Rosenkrantz was referring to the quite bizarre scenario that Microsoft has found itself in, pressured into handing over emails on request.

The fact that the emails are stored in Ireland, and Irish authorities were not involved in the process, only adds to the weird, beuraucratic madness.

Always suspected, and subsequently revealed by Edward Snowden two years ago, the scope within which US surveillance operates seems fairly limitless.

However, Rosenkrantz, speaking on behalf of a company openly backed by dozens of organisations, including Apple, Cisco and Verizon, made a valid point.

Were China to put the squeeze on a company operating out of New York, without getting US permission, it wouldn’t end well.

“This is a matter of national sovereignty,” said Rosenkrantz, claiming a scenario where Microsoft was forced to hand over documentation would open up a “global free-for-all”.

The US government, though, argued that it was well within its rights to demand data from a US company, especially as the fact that data is hardly tangible muddies the jurisdictional waters.

Considering we are, rather inexplicably, still living through an era of ‘Safe Harbour’, and state surveillance always seems to survive public outcry, there seems to be a fair amount of smoke and mirrors going on.

Although, even under Safe Harbour, the US should be dealing with state bodies to ensure the passage of data.

Anyway, it’s highly unlikely that the files requested have actually remained out of sight from the US government. If anything, one wonders if this case is more about streamlining that process, more than anything else.

Main image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic