There’s been a lot of talk about emails and servers thanks Hillary Clinton and her secret server scandal. Hillary has evaded questions and flat out lied. And who can forget her trying to “Wipe” her server with a “Cloth”. The FBI and DOJ have all become active players in the suppression of the truth to protect some rather scurrilous behavior by a Secretary of State and some very serious security breaches.
There has been another case involving the average American and emails servers. The case of Microsoft and the US Government is of huge importance to the everyday citizen and his or her privacy rights in our digital age.
The case itself revolves around the simple idea found in the Constitution called the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment doesn’t always get the attention the First or the Second Amendment get, but it is nonetheless where the rubber meets the road in a free society. It is usually referred to as the Unreasonable Search and Seizure protection.
Our founders knew a thing or two about an unrepentant government who could confiscate your stuff and raid your house with no legal warrant. They knew that the foundation of freedom of the people meant they had to be secure in their stuff. Not just their house either…also in your personal effects, papers. A free people required their government to get legal justification for breaking this truth. Searches had to be backed up with the force of a legal warrant.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Enter the modern age…when our personal effects and papers are stored electronically on servers all over the world. The case revolves around the US Government’s demand upon Microsoft to provide access to information found on a Microsoft server in Ireland. Since the server was in a foreign country, attempts to deny Fourth Amendment rights to Americans was attempted by using international treaties to complicate matters even more.
The warrants used by the government to attempt to gain access to the private information of American citizens are based upon a privacy law from 1986. This case is a victory for Microsoft and for freedom loving Americans everywhere. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled in the case brought by Microsoft addressing the global application of U.S. search warrants for people’s email. The court ruled in favor of Microsoft overturning an earlier ruling from a lower court.
Microsoft explains the needs to modernize our laws like this:
As our case outlines, Congress passed the Stored Communications Act as part of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act in 1986 and much has changed since then. The modernization of outdated laws around electronic communications should be a priority in Congress to ensure a balance between the needs of law enforcement while maintaining the privacy of individuals. Without such modernization, we risk damage to the economy, law enforcement efforts, and to individuals, businesses and governments that rely upon electronic communication.
As Judge Lynch emphasized in his concurrence, there is a “need for congressional action to revise a badly outdated law.” He also noted: “Congress has, in the past, proven adept at adopting rules for adapting the basic requirements of the Fourth Amendment to new technologies.” We would appreciate your support in applauding the Second Circuit for today’s decision and encouraging Congress to take action to support domestic legislation to modernize our laws here in the United States. On social media, we are using the hashtag #ICPA to support legislation currently under consideration on the Hill.
This case has enjoyed massive support from industry. More than 28 technology and media companies, 23 trade associations and 35 of America’s leading computer scientists have all signed on to promote modernizing these outdated laws. America…we can do better. We must protect our privacy rights. Companies like Microsoft are on the front lines of this battle against our rights eroding.
Our founders knew how important being secure in your person was. We need to bring the rights of the Fourth Amendment into the modern age. This case is only one small step to doing that. Politicians from both sides of the aisle should come together with legislation designed to protect modern man in an electronic age.
This year, being an election year, would be great time to do it. Running on the privacy rights of the American people would be a winner for any wise politician willing to take it on!