On Friday, U.S Magistrate Judge Thomas Rueter ordered Google to cooperate with the FBI by handing over data from emails that are stored outside the United States. This opposes to a recent case involving Microsoft in which a Federal Appeal Court concluded that the company didn’t need to comply with such orders.

The FBI issued a warrant related to a fraud case, and the judge ruled Google should comply. However, the California-based company is not willing to do so, and it is planning to appeal the decision. Google argues that because the emails required by the FBI are stored in foreign servers, U.S. authorities should not be able to seize this data.

Photo credit: AP Photo/ Virginia Mayo, File / US News and World Report
“The magistrate, in this case, departed from precedent, and we plan to appeal the decision. We will continue to push back on overbroad warrants,” said Google in a statement issued Saturday. Photo credit: AP Photo/ Virginia Mayo, File.

Judge Rueter says it is not a seizure

Rueter’s last Friday ruling has been very controversial. Rueter stated that Google should deliver to the FBI data from overseas emails since the data is needed to investigate a fraud case. Nevertheless, this decision goes against an appeal court ruling made last year, when it was decided that Microsoft didn’t have to hand over its costumer’s data if it was stored outside the U.S territory. In the Microsoft case, the data requested was stored on Irish servers.

On the Google case, the judge said that there is no significant interference with the account holder’s “possessory interest” also saying that any privacy infringements occur at the time of disclosure in the country. According to Rueter the act of transferring emails from a foreign server to another server did not qualify as a seizure.

Google continues to argue the ruling dictated on Friday. The company says that giving the information of foreign costumers to U.S. authorities, even if it is for an FBI investigation, is a seizure in spite of what the Judge said. Google considers that it is a clear invasion of privacy.

“Though the retrieval of the electronic data by Google from its multiple data centers abroad has the potential for an invasion of privacy, the actual infringement of privacy occurs at the time of disclosure in the United States,” Rueter wrote.

Google is going to appeal Judge Rueter’s ruling

Google also says that the Microsoft case is a precedent that Judge Rueter decided to ignore. Google has already delivered some data stored in the U.S., but it is relying on the ruling made in the Microsoft case last July, to refuse to hand over information stored outside the territory. Google receives about 25,000 requests a year from U.S authorities to disclose data for criminal matters.

The ruling in the Microsoft case entered into force about seven months ago in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. The data the U.S. authorities were asking for was needed for a narcotics case, but it was stored in Dublin. The decision was welcomed by dozens of technology and media companies, privacy advocates, the American Civil Liberties Union and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Source: Tech Crunch