On 23 December 2014, the Irish Government filed an amicus curiae brief in the US Microsoft case, which is currently before the United States Court of Appeals (see here). An amicus curiae (literally – a friend of the court) filing allows a party to offer its perspective on a case. The amicus has an interest in the outcome but it is not a party to the action.
Speaking in advance of the submission of the brief to the Court, Minister for Data Protection, Dara Murphy T.D. said: “The right of individuals to the protection of their personal data is an essential foundation for modern society and the growing digital economy. We must ensure that individuals and organisations can have confidence in the rules and processes that have been put in place to safeguard privacy”.
The submission points to the existence of a mutual legal assistance program that is already available as a method to share information in criminal matters between Ireland and the US, which is the preferred method to allow for the transfer of such data.
If Microsoft is unsuccessful in its appeal, it and others could be compelled to turn over data to the US authorities regardless of the privacy laws and regulations in the country where data are located.
Many of the world’s largest technology firms have voiced their support of the Microsoft position. This comes amid fears that a ruling forcing companies to release data without regard to local laws would affect consumer confidence and decrease the ability of technology firms to effect the proper protection of customer data.