The United States Department of Justice is negotiating agreements that would allow foreign governments to serve U.S. technology companies with warrants for email searches and wiretaps. Last week, federal appeals court ruled that federal warrants couldn’t be used to search data held overseas by Microsoft Corp., dealing the agency a major legal defeat. The Justice Department is considering appealing the Microsoft ruling to the Supreme Court.
Under the new agreements , foreign investigators would be able to serve a warrant directly on a U.S. firm to see a suspect’s stored emails or intercept their messages in real time, as long as the surveillance didn’t involve U.S. citizens or residents. These deals will also give U.S. investigators reciprocal authority to search data in other countries.
A coalition of the country’s largest tech companies, including Microsoft, Facebook and Google, created a group called Reform Government Surveillance that is pushing for updating data-protection laws.
Google, for example, stores user data across data centers around the world, with attention on efficiency and security rather than where the data is physically stored. A given email message, for instance, may be stored in several data centers far from the user’s location, and an attachment to the message could be stored in several other data centers. The locations of the message, the attachment and copies of the files may change from day to day.
Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers