SEATTLE - Technology companies Apple Inc , Amazon.com Inc , AT&T Inc and more than 20 others are supporting Microsoft Corp in the software company's legal battle with the US government over access to customer data stored overseas.
The long-running court fight has taken on an urgency for technology and media companies in the wake of revelations about bulk electronic data collection by the US National Security Agency from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
A US judge ruled in late July that Microsoft must turn over a customer's emails stored in a data centre in Ireland to US federal prosecutors under a criminal search warrant. It is unclear what type of investigation led to the warrant, which remains under seal.
Microsoft is appealing that ruling, saying US authorities cannot automatically compel US companies to hand over customer information stored overseas. The judge has temporarily suspended her order from taking effect while Microsoft appeals.
"We believe that when one government wants to obtain email that is stored in another country, it needs to do so in a manner that respects existing domestic and international laws," said Microsoft head lawyer Brad Smith in a blog post on Monday.
"The US government's unilateral use of a search warrant to reach email in another country puts both fundamental privacy rights and cordial international relations at risk."
Smith said 10 industry groups planned to file "friend of the court" briefs with the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York on Monday.
He said the briefs will be signed by 28 tech and media companies, 35 computer scientists and 23 trade and advocacy organisations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the US Chamber of Commerce.
The US government has yet to file its response to Microsoft's appeal, and oral arguments on the case are not expected for another six months or so.