Today our product team outlined several ways that Outlook.com is smarter about storing your information in the right location.
Our decision to store data in the region that is closest to our customers has legal implications as well. In 2016, a U.S. Court of Appeals determined that U.S. search warrants did not compel email providers like Microsoft to turn over customers’ personal files stored overseas to law enforcement. This decision upheld longstanding legal guidance that says search warrants do not apply overseas, and it sent a message that foreign countries should not be able to force U.S. companies to turn over U.S. customers’ data without the permission of the U.S. government. That case is now before the Supreme Court.
In the year since the ruling, some law enforcement entities have raised a question as to whether U.S. citizens could attempt to evade U.S. law enforcement by signing up for a Microsoft account and claiming their residence is overseas, thus leading to their data being stored beyond the reach of U.S.-issued search warrants.
Though we have not seen this as a problem in practice, we recognize that it’s a hypothetical possibility. As the product team announcement explains, however, with improved technology, that concern should no longer be an issue. It’s never been our intent to frustrate vital law enforcement investigations. We value their work in keeping us all safe. We know that the current process for seeking digital evidence stored across borders can and should be improved. That’s why we are so encouraged by legislation introduced in the House and Senate that provides a legislative path to ensure law enforcement can access evidence in a timely manner while still protecting people’s rights.
But while we wait for Congress to move legislation forward, we recognize that it’s important to be clear about our practices and policies.
For the overwhelming majority of our U.S. customers — whose data is already right here in America — this change will have no effect. And we are not planning to continuously move our customers’ data around in our cloud or otherwise restructure our cloud practices. Instead, this is a simple, common-sense step to use automation to make our service faster.