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Second Circuit Limits Use of U.S. Warrants Seeking Data Stored Overseas

July 25, 2016, Covington Alert

Search warrants served on U.S. Internet companies and cloud service providers cannot obtain customer data stored overseas, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled on July 14. The federal appellate decision focuses on warrants issued under the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“ECPA”) and formally applies only in the Second Circuit, but will be important precedent nationwide as courts, law enforcement, and industry grapple with the extraterritorial reach of U.S. legal process. The decision affects not only providers of cloud-based services that are subject to compulsory process under ECPA, but also individuals and companies that store data with U.S. technology companies. The decision, which the government may seek to appeal, could also spur congressional action addressing the extraterritorial reach of U.S. legal process and law enforcement’s access to data in cross-border investigations.

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