(Bloomberg) — The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to decide whether law enforcement officials conducting a criminal investigation can demand data held overseas by Microsoft Corp. and other technology companies in a high-stakes clash over digital privacy.
The justices will review a federal appeals ruling that the Trump administration says has become a major obstacle in criminal probes. Already, Google Inc. and Yahoo, acquired by Verizon Communications Inc., have stopped complying with search warrants for emails and other user data stored outside the country, the Justice Department said.
The lower court said a 1986 law that protects the privacy of electronic communications — and carves out an exception for law enforcement needs — doesn't extend to data kept in other countries. The ruling came in a case involving emails stored on a Microsoft server in Ireland.
"Under this opinion, hundreds if not thousands of investigations of crimes — ranging from terrorism, to child pornography, to fraud — are being or will be hampered by the government's inability to obtain electronic evidence," Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall argued in court papers.
The case will pit federal and state officials against the technology industry, which has lined up behind Microsoft in the litigation. The court will hear arguments early next year and rule by June.
Microsoft urged the court not to hear the case, saying the justices should leave it to Congress to
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