Microsoft’s general counsel Brad Smith announced in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Tuesday night that the company will fight a tactic used by the U.S. government to force tech companies to turn over customers’ emails stored on remote servers.
According to Smith, the government considers emails stored in the cloud as “business records,” which don’t have the same legal protection as private property.
Here’s how Smith describes it:
Courts have long recognised the distinction between a company’s business records and an individual’s personal communications. For example, the government can serve a subpoena on UPS to disclose business records that show where a customer shipped packages, but it must establish probable cause and get a warrant from a judge to look at what a customer put inside.
Smith says Microsoft will argue against that kind of distinction in federal court on Thursday. Microsoft thinks emails are private property, even if they’re stored in the cloud. That means the government should issue the proper warrant if it wants to access someone’s email that’s stored online.