Back in 2013, federal investigators successfully got warrants from a court to obtain the emails located on a server in Ireland as part of a drug investigation.
While the underlying case turned on a 1986 law called the Stored Communications Act, which predated the modern internet, an unsigned opinion from the Supreme Court this morning notes that the controversy was mooted last month when President Donald Trump signed the CLOUD Act, short for Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data.
Both sides in the digital privacy dispute had agreed and told the court the case was moot after Congress passed the CLOUD Act, which clarified the circumstances when USA law enforcement officers can access overseas emails.
Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith has said Microsoft backed The CLOUD Act because it sets the stage for governments to establish the global agreements between them to establish a framework for these kinds of cases.
Microsoft and other players in the tech industry supported the cloud act because it provides legal clarity for the company.
"No live dispute remains between the parties over the issue", the ruling (PDF) reads. "As the governments of the United Kingdom and Australia have recognized, the Cloud Act encourages these types of agreements, and we urge the USA government to move quickly to negotiate them". In March, the Justice Department was granted a new search warrant meant to force Microsoft to turn over the emails in question.
It was on its way to a judgment by the Supreme Court, but legislators chose to intervene. "Our goal has always been a new law and worldwide agreements with strong privacy protections that govern how law enforcement gathers digital evidence across borders", said Brad Smith, Microsoft's president.
The case is United States v. Microsoft, 17-2. The case started when the USA government wanted to access emails stored on servers in Dublin, regarding a drug trafficking investigation.