US Supreme Court To Hear Case on Data Storage Search Warrants

Crime, News, Regulation | October 17, 2017 By:

Blockchain companies that hold information in servers anywhere in the world may be subject to demands by US law enforcement to turn over data if requested in a criminal investigation search warrant if the US Supreme Court so decides in an upcoming case.

Robert Cattanach is a partner at the international law firm Dorsey & Whitney. He has previously worked as a trial attorney for the United States Department of Justice and was also special counsel to the Secretary of the Navy. Today he practices in the areas of regulatory litigation, including cybersecurity and data breaches, privacy and telecommunications, civil and criminal enforcement proceedings and international Regulatory Compliance.

“In a keenly watched case, the US Supreme Court has agreed to review a decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that Microsoft did not have to turn over user data stored overseas in response to a search warrant issued under the Stored Communication Act,” Cattanach said. “The case pits the interests of law enforcement access to information against concerns over government overreach, and could have ramifications globally as other nations likely will adapt their policies regarding access to information stored in other countries based on what the US Supreme Court decides.”

He answered a few questions from Block Tribune:

BLOCK TRIBUNE:  If this is approved, doesn’t it open the door to further law enforcement across borders?  

ROBERT CATTANACH:  If the search is allowed, access to information would be without reference to political boundaries. 

BLOCK TRIBUNE:  What are the ramifications to freedom of speech?

ROBERT CATTANACH: Conceivably, this could have a chilling effect on free speech, since any electronically stored information could be within reach of a foreign power. But the jurisdiction issuing the search warrant would still have to have some nexus with the entity possessing the information. In other words, if the entity possessing the information of the individual that was the subject of the warrant was not itself subject to the jurisdictioin of the government issuing the warrant, it theoretically would not have to comply with the request.

BLOCK TRIBUNE:Are there countries known as places where rogue servers hold information that law enforcement would love to get its hands on?  If so, who?

ROBERT CATTANACH:  Typically Eastern Europe, Korea, China and Russia are believed to house servers used in criminal enterprises. Accessing them could depend on whether those servers were controlled by or accessible to non-host-government entities – which may be unlikely.

BLOCK TRIBUNE:  How broad would warrants get for data searches if this goes through? 

ROBERT CATTANACH:  In the US, law enforcement would still have to show probable cause to justify the issuance of a warrant. Typically, this bar is not particularly high, especially in some jurisdictions.