Tech companies rally behind Microsoft to defend Irish server warrant

16 Dec 2014

Microsoft's Irish HQ in Sandyford, Dublin

Microsoft has found some powerful allies among the tech industry, all of whom want to limit the intrusion of governments in requesting customer information, specifically the US’ request for server access in Ireland.

The US government first attempted to gain access to Microsoft’s data centre based in Ireland last April, regarding the emails of one of Microsoft’s customers, but the company is refusing to budge from its position that it is an unwarranted intrusion of people’s digital privacy.

Since then, both sides in the court battle have appeared to have shown signs of a turning tide, only for the battle to continue on, but now Microsoft has got the backing of 10 groups that have filed ‘friend of the court’ briefs, with a total of 28 tech and media companies, 35 computer scientists, and 23 trade associations and advocacy organisations putting their weight behind Microsoft.

Included in this list are none other than Verizon, Apple, Amazon, Cisco, Salesforce, HP, eBay, Infor, AT&T and Rackspace, and from a US institution perspective, the US Chamber of Commerce.

“Collectively, these briefs make one conclusion unmistakably clear. This case involves not a narrow legal question, but a broad policy issue that is fundamental to the future of global technology,” said the Microsoft statement on the matter.

Server room image via Shutterstock

Greater inclusion of international governments

From an Irish perspective, one of the organisations highlighted for filing its ‘friend of the court’ brief was Digital Rights Ireland, Ireland’s largest digital rights advocacy group.

In its brief, the group suggested the best possible way for the US government to attempt to obtain the information would be through the mutual legal assistance treaty agreed between the US and Ireland, which would ensure above-board legality.

With the court case continuing, Microsoft is now calling on the US government to lead a change in how data is obtained internationally, given the obvious issues that arose from the leaking of National Security Agency documents by Edward Snowden in 2013.

“The US government has the opportunity to help lead the way in devising and enacting much needed reforms,” the statement continued.

“Even while the court case moves forward, it is time for the Administration and the US Congress to engage in a holistic debate on the solutions to these issues and find a better way forward.”

The general public in Ireland is also in favour of greater assurances of digital privacy, with a survey in November finding 87pc believe in privacy parity for physical and digital information.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic