Although it's unclear what resides within the emails in question, in a report last month (via The Register) it was said that a Pennsylvania district court submitted two domestic search warrants -- issued under the Stored Communications Act -- targeted at the suspects in the case and their emails stored overseas. Google was given two orders previously, which it refused to comply with, before the judge in the case ruled that as an American corporation it must abide by the rulings of an American court, no matter where the data in question is being held.
The coalition of companies supporting Google now argue that the scope of the SCA doesn't reach into foreign territories, and could lead to Google being forced to violate foreign data privacy laws. The amicus brief cites a case where Microsoft was asked to hand over emails stored on cloud servers in Ireland.
Microsoft eventually won that case when it argued that the SCA does not cover data stored on servers in foreign countries and that the Act itself is "a statute enacted when the internet was still in its infancy" (it dates back to 1986) and subsequently should not be the touchstone of modern, technology-driven privacy cases.
The U.S. Government frequently serves some Amici with warrants issued under the Stored Communications Act (SCA). When the data sought is stored in a U.S. data center, Amici regularly comply with such warrants. The Government, however, also has attempted to use such warrants to force some Amici, without consent of the customer or the foreign country, to seize private emails stored in a foreign country and to turn them over to the Government. But the SCA does not authorize warrants that reach into other countries, and forcing those Amici to execute such searches on the Government’s behalf would place those Amici in the position of being compelled to risk violating foreign data privacy lawsThe brief also argues that if Google is forced to hand over the emails, a reverse situation could occur that opens the floodgates for foreign countries to request emails from U.S. citizens that are stored on U.S. servers. At the most extreme, the brief argues that foreign nations could see the data extraction as "an affront to their sovereignty in much the same way that physically conducting law enforcement activity on foreign soil would violate their sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Other than the filing of the amicus brief, Google's case hasn't moved forward in any way since February. When the Pennsylvanian court filed the search warrant forcing Google to hand over the emails, a spokesperson for the company said that Google plans to continue to appeal and "we will continue to push back on over-broad warrants."
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