Google Ordered To Provide U.S. With Foreign Emails

February 6, 2017 - Written By Dominik Bosnjak

Google was ordered to provide the United States government with emails stored on its foreign servers. Thomas Rueter, a Philadelphia-based U.S. Magistrate Judge compelled the Mountain View-based tech giant to do so on Friday after concluding that there are no grounds to label such an order as seizure, which is what Google argued was the case. Rueter said that his decision may be labeled as an invasion of privacy if taken out of context, but added that in this case, any privacy infringements happen as soon as they’re disclosed in the U.S. and the fact that emails in question aren’t stored on American servers isn’t enough to qualify the controversial order as a seizure of evidence.

Google issued a statement the following day and revealed that it plans to appeal this decision. The Alphabet-owned company claims that the judge ignored a precedent that was already set last July. Last summer, the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Microsoft will not be compelled to provide the government with emails stored on a server that was located in Dublin, Ireland. Those emails were requested as a part of an investigation into a narcotics case while the ones requested from Google on Friday pertained to a domestic fraud case, but the Mountain View-based Internet giant believes there are no inherent differences between the two that would warrant an entirely different ruling. Finally, Google clearly stated its intentions to continue fighting against all “overbroad warrants” such as this one in the future.

The case against Microsoft was an extremely polarizing one, as certain U.S. authorities claimed that preventing them from accessing emails from U.S. citizens stored on foreign servers also prevents them from doing their jobs, while Microsoft and numerous advocacy groups and tech giants were claiming such a decision qualifies as an unlawful seizure of evidence. After Microsoft won the legal argument, the entire Silicon Valley labeled the case as a huge win, presuming it will set a precedent for all similar government requests in the future. This is why the latest turn of events came as a surprise, especially since the warrant issued to Google was based on the Stored Communications Act, the very same one that the prosecutors tried to use to compel Microsoft to provide them with emails stored on foreign servers last July. An update on this case is expected to follow shortly.