Microsoft Sues US Justice Dept Over Secret Customer Data Orders

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Microsoft has sued the US Justice Department over the agency’s never-ending requests seeking customer data without the knowledge of the user. The Redmond, Washington-based company hopes that the federal judge will rule in its favor, and allow it to inform the customer when the government has asked to access his or her emails and other data. In the suit, Microsoft mentioned that it has received nearly 2,600 “secret” orders in less than past two years.

Microsoft is challenging the Section 2705(b) of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which allows the government to search for and obtain orders without allowing the company to inform the concerned customer. In its complaint, Microsoft writes, “This statute violates both the Fourth Amendment, which affords people and businesses the right to know if the government searches or seizes their property, and the First Amendment, which enshrines Microsoft’s rights to talk to its customers and to discuss how the government conducts its investigations—subject only to restraints narrowly tailored to serve compelling government interests.”

The motion comes two months after Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer, Brad Smith, criticized the 30-year-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act, nothing that it was not meant to govern over today’s generation. Smith said, “We believe that with rare exceptions consumers and businesses have a right to know when the government accesses their emails or records. Yet it’s becoming routine for the U.S. government to issue orders that require email providers to keep these types of legal demands secret. We believe that this goes too far and we are asking the courts to address the situation.”

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