That is, the invasions of privacy will occur in the United States; the searches of the electronic data disclosed by Google pursuant to the warrants will occur in the United States when the FBI reviews the copies of the requested data in Pennsylvania. These cases, therefore, involve a permissible domestic application of the SCA, even if other conduct (the electronic transfer of data) occurs abroad.
This court agrees with the Second Circuit’s reliance upon Fourth Amendment principles, but respectfully disagrees with the Second Circuit’s analysis regarding the location of the seizure and the invasion of privacy. The crux of the issue before the court is as follows: assuming the focus of the Act is on privacy concerns, where do the invasions of privacy take place? To make that determination, the court must analyze where the seizures, if any, occur and where the searches of user data take place. This requires the court to examine relevant Fourth Amendment precedent.
Electronically transferring data from a server in a foreign country to Google’s data center in California does not amount to a “seizure” because there is no meaningful interference with the account holder’s possessory interest in the user data. Indeed, according to the Stipulation entered into by Google and the Government, Google regularly transfers user data from one data center to another without the customer’s knowledge. Such transfers do not interfere with the customer’s access or possessory interest in the user data. Even if the transfer interferes with the account owner’s control over his information, this interference is de minimis and temporary. See Jacobsen, 466 U.S. at 125-26 (holding that permanent destruction of small portion of property for testing a de minimis intrusion on possessory interest); United States v. Hoang, 486 F.3d 1156, 1162 (9th Cir. 2007) (“[N]o seizure occurs if a package is detained in a manner that does not significantly interfere with its timely delivery in the normal course of business.”), cert. denied, 552 U.S. 1144 (2008).
When Google produces the electronic data in accordance with the search warrants and the Government views it, the actual invasion of the account holders’ privacy- the searches – will occur in the United States. Even though the retrieval of the electronic data by Google from its multiple data centers abroad has the potential for an invasion of privacy, the actual infringement of privacy occurs at the time of disclosure in the United States.
[I]f the court were to adopt Google’s interpretation of the Microsoft decision and apply such a rationale to the case at bar, it would be impossible for the Government to obtain the sought-after user data through existing MLAT channels. In contrast, under this court’s interpretation, Google will gather the requested undisclosed data on its computers in California, copy the data in California, and send the data to law enforcement agents in the United States, who will then conduct their searches in the United States.