Can U.S. law enforcement reach data stored oversees by using a warrant under the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2701, et seq.? Until the Supreme Court decides the issue, which may happen next term, the answer is: it depends where the government applied for the warrant.
Over the last few years, U.S.-based technology companies have been increasingly resisting warrants under the Stored Communications Act for data those companies store oversees. These warrants, they claim, represent an extraterritorial application of the law, which Congress has never permitted.
Traditionally, if the government has probable cause to believe that a person’s email account contains evidence of a crime, and a federal magistrate judge agrees, a warrant would issue directing the email service provider to turn over those emails to the government. But data is increasingly stored in the “cloud.” And, as it turns out, the “cloud” consists of server farms located all over the world. Companies like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple now host large quantities of data abroad, raising complicated jurisdictional questions.