Some of the world's largest technology companies, including Apple and Amazon are supporting Microsoft in a dispute with the US Government over access to e-mails housed in a data centre in Ireland
Companies such as Hewlett-Packard , Verizon Communications and eBay , as well as business and advocacy groups and computer science professors, plan to file 10 amicus briefs with the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals to bolster Microsoft's position in a legal fight against the government, the company said .
The case, which Microsoft has lost twice and is appealing, pits the company against US lawmakers seeking access to e-mails housed in a Microsoft data centre in Ireland. The US government has said the e-mails will help it solve a criminal case, while Microsoft officials have said providing access would violate privacy.
"Ultimately it's about trust," Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, said at an event in New York focused on the case.
“You’re not going to put your data in a data centre run by a US company unless you have confidence that they’re going to protect it.”
The issue has come to the fore for US technology companies in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations last year about US government spying, which have left some foreign customers concerned about the privacy of their data stored with US providers.
Microsoft in January decided to let overseas customers store private data outside the US, and if it loses this appeal, even that option may not keep the data from US government hands.
It's like if "someone rooms in a Hilton hotel in England -– just because Hilton is a US company, US authorities can't just say, 'Hey, open that room," said Ed Lazowska, a University of Washington computer science professor who signed on to the friend-of-the-court briefs. "Presumably the laws of England would apply."
Apple and Amazon's show of support was an unusual display of solidarity among technology rivals. Apple officials have publicly agreed with Microsoft's viewpoint, while Amazon is commenting on the case for the first time, according to Liz Wu, a company spokeswoman.
Amicus briefs are filed in legal cases by outside parties who have an interest in the result. In this case, the companies want to limit the US's ability to access customer data. AT&T and Cisco Systems also signed Tuesday's briefs, as well as 17 news and media companies, 35 computer scientists, five civil liberties organizations and two of the largest US business organisations, Microsoft said.