Microsoft v. United States, No. 14-2985 (2d Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Microsoft appealed from the district court's order denying its motion to quash a warrant issued under section 2703 of the Stored Communications Act (SCA), 18 U.S.C. 2701 et seq., and holding Microsoft in contempt of court for refusing to execute the warrant on the government’s behalf. The warrant directed Microsoft to seize and produce the contents of an e‐mail account - an account believed to be used in furtherance of narcotics trafficking - that it maintains for a customer who uses the company’s electronic communications services. Microsoft produced its customer’s non‐content information to the government, as directed. That data was stored in the United States. But Microsoft ascertained that, to comply fully with the warrant, it would need to access customer content that it stores and maintains in Ireland and to import that data into the United States for delivery to federal authorities. The court concluded that Congress did not intend the SCA’s warrant provisions to apply extraterritorially. The focus of those provisions is protection of a user’s privacy interests. Accordingly, the SCA does not authorize a United States court to issue and enforce an SCA warrant against a United States‐based service provider for the contents of a customer’s electronic communications stored on servers located outside the United States. Therefore, the court concluded that the district court lacked authority to enforce the warrant against Microsoft. The court reversed the denial of the motion to quash because Microsoft has complied with the warrant’s domestic directives and resisted only its extraterritorial aspect; vacated the finding of civil contempt; and remanded with instructions to the district court to quash the warrant insofar as it directs Microsoft to collect, import, and produce to the government customer content stored outside the United States.