The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for Microsoft v. United States on Tuesday, a case that could have global implications for digital privacy.
At issue is the reach and jurisdiction of digital warrants: If an American company, like Microsoft, stores a user's emails on a server outside the United States, does it have to deliver those emails to police when they've obtained a search warrant? In this case, the emails in question were stored in Ireland, and the Irish government has argued proper procedure would be for U.S. law enforcement to ask Irish law enforcement to obtain a warrant for the emails and then share them across the pond.
The decision in this case, however, will likely have effects beyond U.S. investigatory practice. Should the United States assert its digital warrants can cross national borders, other nations may do likewise. "If the U.S. government obtains the power to search and seize foreign citizens' private communications physically stored in other countries, it will invite other governments to do the same thing," said Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith. "If we ignore other countries' laws, how can we demand that they respect our laws?"