Silicon Valley giants rally around Google over server demands

15 Mar 2017

Server room. Image: Scanrail1/Shutterstock

With the US legal system demanding that Google give it access to emails stored on foreign servers, Silicon Valley is rallying around the company in the form of an amicus brief.

The relationship between Silicon Valley and the US legal system has been anything but smooth in the past, most notably with Microsoft, which successfully managed to prevent the US government from accessing data on Irish-based servers.

Google, too, has come under intense pressure from a court in Pennsylvania to relax its data protection requirements by giving the court access to emails that the company is storing internationally.

What exact data being demanded by the court remains to be seen, but Google is adamant that it is not going to hand it over willingly.

Now, according to Business Insider, Google’s competitors and neighbours in Silicon Valley are offering their support in the form of an amicus brief, which allows companies or organisations not directly involved with a case to offer their opinion.

In the letter sent to the court, the authors were revealed as Microsoft, Amazon, Cisco and Apple, which jointly claim that by demanding access to data on foreign servers, the US government is opening the door to demands from other countries for its own data stored in its borders.

“So bold a projection of US law enforcement power into foreign countries would show disdain for their sovereignty and threaten to disrupt the harmony existing between the US and other nations,” the letter said.

Offering an alternative

The key legal component of their argument rests on the Stored Communications Act (SCA) in the US that relates to the legality of access in the country to information held by internet service providers.

The companies question whether the same act would apply to data not stored within the borders of the US, and stress that they believe any actions should only be orchestrated by its congress, rather than the courts.

The letter also directly references Microsoft’s experiences last January, showing that the company did not have to hand over data stored in Ireland under the SCA.

However, offering a potential alternative, the companies suggest extending the SCA so that only US citizens and permanent residents in the country can be accessed from foreign servers.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic