In Britain, the lunatics are now in charge of the data asylum
A good-news-bad-news day for anyone concerned about government’s ability to access personal data held by global tech companies.
Earlier today the Second Circuit ruled that the US Government cannot force companies to hand over user data stored overseas. The ruling follows an appeal by Microsoft against a warrant, issued back in 2015, requiring it to hand over data stored on servers in Dublin. The company argued that the American government has no power to issue that kind of international search warrant. A magistrate and a district judge disagreed and ordered Microsoft to hand over the data. Today’s appeals court ruling overturns the order.
“We think Microsoft has the better of the argument,” said Circuit Court Judge Sarah Carney, in an opinion written for a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York.
The panel based its judgment on the 30-year-old U.S. Stored Communications Act. The act, Carney wrote, “does not authorize courts to issue and enforce against U.S.‐based service providers warrants for the seizure of customer e‐mail content that is stored exclusively on foreign servers.”
So that’s the good news.
For any British Pando readers, here’s the bad news.
On Tuesday, Britain appointed (not elected) a new Prime Minister, Theresa May. The former home secretary has long argued for almost unfettered government access to data stored by tech companies, in order to combat terrorism.
That view culminated in her “ investigatory powers bill,” a so-called “snooper’s charter” created in response to the Edward Snowden revelations. Earlier this month the UK’s House of Lords criticized the bill, saying it could endanger journalists and their sources. The bill includes a provision that might allow the government to hack the microphone of target’s mobile phone, or access almost all of their Internet records.
Britain now faces the reality that their snooper in chief has now been installed as Prime Minister. And it gets worse. May’s first act as Prime Minister was to appoint chief Brexiter Boris Johnson as her foreign secretary. That gives Johnson -- a fiercely pro-American politician (not least because he was born in New York) -- ultimate responsibility for Britain’s MI6 foreign intelligence service.
The combination of May in Downing Street and Johnson in the foreign office should send chills down the spine of any Brit who doesn’t want their data mass-harvested and then shipped off to Langley.
Like I said, a good news bad news day.