Data problems in Ireland

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Conflicting data privacy laws are causing problems between Microsoft Ireland and the US Supreme court.

In a criminal investigation that has been ongoing since 2013, questions have been raised about the difficulty of privacy protection in a digital age. In this case, a suspect’s emails are being held on Microsoft servers in Ireland. A warrant has been issued for the release of the emails, but Microsoft Ireland say that emails are protected by EU privacy laws and cannot currently be surrendered without due process.

Microsoft have over 100 data centres around the world, and therefore are subject to regular evidence requests from law enforcement agencies from different territories. This landmark case signals an ongoing complaint that the existing laws do not adequately cover modern data holding techniques, specifically where data is held on servers, or in “the cloud”, in different jurisdictions.

But this is set to change. Proposed new EU laws would allow electronic data to be surrendered across borders when it pertains to serious crimes.

The proposed “e-evidence” law is currently in the drafting stages and is expected to be debated by lawmakers from March onwards.

The EU argues that current arrangements, Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLAT’s), which allow foreign agencies to apply to local governments for access to data, are outdated and too slow to keep pace with modern criminal activity. But critics say that new legislation could cause direct conflicts with existing privacy regulations and put people’s privacy in danger. There is also an argument that allowing governments unfettered access to information from different countries could bring the sovereignty of different nations into question.

With the coming new EU GDPR legislations putting data privacy firmly in the international consciousness and shining a spotlight on privacy laws around the world, consumers are not only more aware of their rights when it comes to data but will also have much more control over the collection, management and storage of their information.