Google Can’t Limit Search Warrant to U.S.-Stored Emails: Court

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By Jimmy H. Koo

• Where Google may store relevant data at given moment doesn’t trigger extraterritoriality woes

• To date only one appeals court has held records stored outside U.S. are out of reach

Alphabet Inc.'s Google  failed June 30 to convince a federal trial court that it should amend a search warrant to only require the company to produce emails stored in the U.S. ( In re: Two email accounts stored at Google, Inc, E.D. Wis., No. 17-M-1235, 6/30/17).

Google sought to amend a search warrant filed under seal that seeks emails from two Google user accounts. The company wanted to limit the reach of the warrant to information stored in data centers within the U.S.

Magistrate Judge William E. Duffin of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin said that the warrant is directed toward a company that is within the reach of the court, and that the location where Google may store relevant data at a given moment “does not implicate extraterritoriality concerns.”


Motion to Amend

The warrant, issued under the Stored Communications Act, sought Google customer communications stored both inside and outside the U.S. Seeking to limit the scope of the warrant, Google  argued that Congress didn’t intend the SCA toapply outside the U.S. The court should “leave to Congress the legislative responsibility of amending the SCA,” Google said.

The court said that a “warrant is an order compelling action by a service provider, and the service provider, not the data, is the relevant subject that the court must reach for the order to be effective.”

The court said that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit is the only court to  hold that records stored in data centers located outside the U.S. are out of reach for U.S. courts. Other trial courts outside the Second Circuit have ordered the release of emails stored abroad, the court said.

The Second Circuit’s opinion is under challenge by the government. The Department of Justice June 23  requested that the U.S. Supreme Court review the Second Circuit’s ruling that Microsoft need not turn over emails stored in Ireland.

By Jimmy H. Koo

To contact the reporter on this story: Jimmy H. Koo in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Donald Aplin at

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