Supreme Court Ruling on Stored Communication Act of 1986

Reports from Washington DC confirm that the United States Supreme Court will rule on whether technology companies can be forced by federal prosecutors to hand in information stored outside the US. This ruling comes at an opportune time where the Justice Department and technology companies in the US have been involved in such battles. The Supreme Court will decide on the emotional issue where technology companies’ desire to protect their customers’ information and the demands of law enforcement. This lawsuit has been made possible by a case known as United States v. Microsoft, No 17-2. This is a case based in the United States and involves federal drug-related charges. Prosecutors, in this case, have demanded emails of the suspect that are stored in Microsoft data center that is located in Dublin. On their part, federal prosecutors demand that they should be given access to the emails as Microsoft is an American company based in Seattle. Back in 2013, a New York federal judge issued a search warrant. He argued using a 1986 law known as the Stored Communication Act. Federal prosecutors were unable to carry out the search as Microsoft challenged the decision in court arguing that they cannot be forced to hand in information stored outside the United States.

The United States Court of Appeal later convened a three-judge panel that confirmed that the warrant could not be used beyond the US borders. They argued that the 1986 law could not be used extraterritorially. One of the judges by the name Gerald E. Lynch asked the Congress to revisit the law and see how it can be used for cases involving data stored abroad. Later on, the Full Second Circuit could not agree whether the warrant could be used as the court judges were deadlocked to a 4-4 vote. The Justice Department has requested the Supreme Court not to be influenced by Microsoft’s decision to store data aboard yet the same information can be accessed domestically by a mouse click. At the same time, the Justice Department has argued that the results of the ruling will affect thousands of investigations in the country. This could range from fraud, child pornography as well as terrorism. They attribute this to the inability of the government to obtain electronic evidence due to bureaucracy. Microsoft has also issued a statement in regards to the case where it has said that it’s upon the Congress to revise the 1986 law.

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