Jus­tices look at how older law ap­plies to in­ter­net cloud

Starkville Daily News - - FORUM - By MARK SHERMAN As­so­ci­ated Press

WASH­ING­TON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Tues­day ex­plored what hap­pens when a decades-old law meets 21st cen­tury tech­nol­ogy.

The jus­tices heard ar­gu­ments in a dis­pute be­tween the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and Mi­crosoft Corp. over a war­rant for emails stored in the in­ter­net cloud out­side the United States.

The Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion wanted the emails as part of a drug traf­fick­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The agency ob­tained a war­rant un­der a 1986 law, but Mi­crosoft re­fused to turn over the emails be­cause they are stored on a com­pany server in Dublin, Ire­land, and the war­rant does not ap­ply abroad.

The fed­eral ap­peals court in New York agreed with the com­pany that the 1986 Stored Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Act does not ap­ply out­side the United States.

The ar­gu­ments high­lighted the dif­fi­culty that judges face in try­ing to ap­ply older laws to new tech­no­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ments.

"I rec­og­nize we have a dif­fi­cult statute here," Jus­tice An­thony Kennedy said.

When the law was writ­ten, Jus­tice Ruth Bader Gins­burg said, "No one ever heard of clouds. This kind of stor­age didn't ex­ist."

Still, it seemed likely that the court would side with the ad­min­is­tra­tion, which ar­gues that in­ves­ti­ga­tions have been ham­pered by the ap­pel­late rul­ing.

Jus­tice Depart­ment lawyer Michael Dreeben ar­gued that the fo­cus should be on Mi­crosoft's head­quar­ters in Red­mond, Wash­ing­ton. That's where a com­puter op­er­a­tor would re­trieve the emails and hand them over to fed­eral au­thor­i­ties.

Joshua Rosenkranz, rep­re­sent­ing Mi­crosoft, wanted to talk about where the emails are kept.

"They are stored in Ire­land. And the gov­ern­ment is ask­ing us to go and fetch them from Ire­land," Rosenkranz said.

Chief Jus­tice John Roberts said the gov­ern­ment seemed to have the bet­ter of the ar­gu­ment be­cause "the statute fo­cuses on dis­clo­sure. And dis­clo­sure takes place in Wash­ing­ton, not in Ire­land."

Gins­burg and other jus­tices said it would be bet­ter if Congress up­dated the law. Sen. Or­rin Hatch, R-Utah, who was in the court­room Tues­day, is a spon­sor of a bi­par­ti­san pro­posal that has been in­tro­duced in Congress.

The leg­is­la­tion known as the Cloud Act has the sup­port of both the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and Mi­crosoft.

But lawyers on both sides said the court should de­cide the case be­fore it, not wait for Congress to act.

Dreeben told the court that Mi­crosoft vol­un­tar­ily moved the emails to a server in Ire­land and could just as eas­ily re­trieve them. He stressed that the gov­ern­ment had a war­rant, "the gold stan­dard" for ad­dress­ing pri­vacy con­cerns.

"It's not a case about pri­vacy," said Dreeben, who is part of spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller's Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion team, but has oc­ca­sion­ally ar­gued im­por­tant cases at the Supreme Court.

Rosenkranz de­scribed how much phys­i­cally has to hap­pen in Ire­land when some­one at Mi­crosoft head­quar­ters is­sues a com­mand to re­trieve emails from the Dublin server. Even af­ter the emails are found, the data "runs through Ire­land on hard wires and then over the At­lantic," Rosenkranz said.

"Does some per­son have to be there?" Kennedy asked.

No, a ro­bot han­dles the work in Ire­land. Jus­tice So­nia So­tomayor jumped in. "I guess my imag­i­na­tion is run­ning wild," So­tomayor said to laugh­ter. "Who tells the ro­bot what to do?"

Ad­dress­ing re­porters in front of the court fol­low­ing the ar­gu­ments, Mi­crosoft Pres­i­dent Brad Smith said the ar­gu­ments re­in­forced his view that Congress should act.

"Be­cause, in fact, I think that what this case makes clear, and what this morn­ing has fur­ther made clear, is that we need 21st cen­tury laws to pro­tect 21st cen­tury tech­nol­ogy," Smith said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.