Apple has joined Microsoft, Cisco, Verizon, and AT&T in opposing a federal court ruling that could force American companies to hand data about foreign customers over to the U.S. government in violation of international laws and treaties.
Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple’s participation comes in the form of an amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” brief filed jointly with networking equipment maker Cisco on Friday in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The filings were first spotted by GigaOm.
Microsoft is in the process of appealing portions of a warrant issued by U.S. magistrate judge James Francis IV that ordered the company to give U.S. authorities access to an Irish customer’s email data. The data is held in Ireland, and Microsoft asserts that by complying with the order, it will be breaking Irish data protection laws.
Microsoft had earlier suggested the the government instead rely on the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between the U.S. and Ireland. That treaty states that both countries would assist each other in the gathering and exchange of information for the purposes of law enforcement. Judge Francis rejected that tack, which led to the intervention by Apple and the other firms.
“In rejecting Microsoft’s motion to vacate the search warrant, the Magistrate erred by failing to consider the conflicting obligations under foreign and domestic law that arise when courts order providers to produce data about foreign users stored in foreign countries,” Apple and Cisco’s filing reads. “By omitting this evaluation—and by dismissing the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (“MLAT”) process out of hand with no factual findings regarding the Irish MLAT at issue—the Magistrate placed the burden of reconciling conflicting international laws squarely on U.S. providers.”
The companies argue that upholding the warrant would place them and their employees at risk of foreign sanctions, and could cause international courts to put the data of U.S. citizens at risk.
Silicon Valley firms have continued to struggle under the revelations of the National Security Agency’s data spying capabilities.