Based on an April 2017 opinion by a federal district court in California, storing user communications abroad is not a failsafe way to avoid U.S. law enforcement requests for user data.
The Northern District of California issued the opinion in response to Google’s motion to quash a search warrant from the Department of Justice (DOJ). Citing the Stored Communications Act (SCA), the warrant directed Google to produce stored content related to certain email accounts. Google withheld some of the data, arguing that it was stored overseas and therefore beyond the SCA’s reach. The federal district court rejected this reasoning and ordered Google to “produce all the content responsive to the search warrant that is retrievable from the United States, regardless of the data’s actual location.”
Distinguishing the case at hand from the Second Circuit’s Microsoft opinion, which held that email stored outside the United States might be beyond the government’s reach, the California federal court held that Microsoft had been storing data in accordance with the user’s self-reported location in Ireland, whereas Google was moving data around the world based on efficiency-driven algorithms.
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