On July 31, a U.S. District Court judge ruled from the bench that Microsoft could be forced to turn over customer emails in the context of a law enforcement investigation even though those emails were stored on servers located in Ireland. Microsoft had contested the government’s request, arguing that the data was subject to Irish law and that the U.S. government was required to utilize law enforcement treaty channels to obtain the data. Since the ruling, many have expressed surprise that the ruling gave such seemingly expansive jurisdiction to the U.S. government. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who follow these issues, including readers of Hogan Lovells’ white papers on government access that U.S. law enforcement can compel companies subject to its jurisdiction to produce data stored abroad, much as it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many other countries’ governments provide the exact same authority.
Hogan Lovells has published a White Paper with the results of a study about governmental access to data in the cloud around the world. The White Paper debunks the frequently-expressed assumption that the United States is alone in permitting governmental access to data for law enforcement or national security reasons. The White Paper concludes that businesses are misleading themselves and their customers if they believe that restricting Cloud service providers to one jurisdiction better insulates data from governmental access. It is incorrect to assume that the United States government’s access to data in the Cloud is greater than that of other advanced economies. The White Paper examines the laws of the ten countries, including the United States, with respect to governmental authorities’ ability to access data stored in or transmitted through the Cloud, and documents the similarities and differences among the various legal regimes. The paper was written by Christopher Wolf, co-director of Hogan Lovells’ Privacy and Information Management practice, and Paris Office partner Winston Maxwell. It was released today at a program presented by the Openforum Academy in Brussels at which both Wolf and Maxwell spoke. This blog post links to a copy of the White Paper and summarizes its findings.