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Microsoft Corp. gets a second chance to prove it's entitled to keep data stored overseas out of the hands of U.S. investigators when its lawyers appear before a federal appeals court Wednesday, but the computer software giant is already hedging its bets, calling on Congress to clarify the law.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear Microsoft's challenge to a July 2014 lower court ruling concluding that a court or law enforcement agency in the United States is empowered to order a person or entity to produce materials, even if the information is housed outside the country.

The Redmond, Washington-based company hopes the appeals court will overturn the decision upholding the U.S. government's right to search a consumer email account that Microsoft stores in Dublin, Ireland. The government wants to search the account as part of a narcotics investigation.

A warrant for the information was issued in December 2013, saying there was probable cause to believe the account in a facility opened in 2010 was being used to further narcotics trafficking. Microsoft turned over the customer's address book, which was stored in the United States.

In court papers, Microsoft calls on Congress to "grapple with the question whether, and when, law enforcement should be able to compel providers like Microsoft to help it seize customer emails stored in foreign countries."

"Only Congress has the institutional competence and constitutional authority to balance law enforcement needs against our nation's sovereignty, the privacy of its citizens and the competitiveness of its industry," it said.

But Manhattan federal prosecutors said in court filings that "powerful government interests" override potential negative effects on Microsoft's business or any other company seeking to profit on the storage of information overseas.


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