An Addison County judge has ordered Google to comply with search warrants seeking computer records in three child sex crime investigations, authorities announced Wednesday.
The internet giant refused to comply with the warrants because the information sought by Vermont prosecutors is stored on overseas servers, Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan said.
This legal issue is playing out in criminal courts across the country and could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
In rebuffing three search warrants obtained by the Addison County State's Attorney's Office and the Attorney General's Office, Google cited a federal appellate court decision that ruled in favor of Microsoft when that company denied a similar request for information stored overseas.
Vermont is one of 32 states that, along with the federal government, are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse that lower court decision.
In the Vermont cases, which involve alleged sexual exploitation of children, Addison Superior Court Judge Samuel Hoar Jr. ruled that Vermont's Electronic Communications Privacy Act requires Google to hand over the information, even if it is stored overseas.
"Unfortunately, many individuals use the electronic communications providers to commit crimes," Donovan and Addison County State's Attorney Dennis Wygmans said in a joint statement. "These include sexually exploiting children over the internet by luring children to engage in sex acts and creating and distributing child pornography. Electronic communications providers' refusal to comply with lawfully issued search warrants unreasonably compromises law enforcement's ability to investigate these crimes and keep children safe."