Microsoft has been challenging the US Department of Justice in court over secrecy orders which forced Microsoft to hand over user data to authorities without informing the subject of the warrant of the fact.
Now after a policy change by the DoJ which narrows the scope of their requests Microsoft has agreed to drop their lawsuit, with Microsoft Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith saying in a blog post:
“This is an important step for both privacy and free expression. It is an unequivocal win for our customers, and we’re pleased the DOJ (Department of Justice) has taken these steps to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans.”
“As a result of the issuance of this policy, we are taking steps to dismiss our lawsuit,” Smith said.
The new policy limits the use of secrecy orders and also limits them to only defined periods, rather than the life of the account, unlike previous indefinite secrecy orders.
In an April 2016 lawsuit, Microsoft claimed such orders were a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which establishes the right for people and businesses to know if the government searches or seizes their property, and the Microsoft’s First Amendment right to free speech to inform their users of the search.
Smith felt secrecy order requests would now be “carefully and specifically tailored to the facts in the case.”
Ultimately Microsoft hoped for a change to the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, saying:
We hope Congress will make this positive step forward more permanent by updating outdated laws to better protect our digital rights while still enabling law enforcement to do its job.