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Monday, April 18, 2016

Microsoft Sues U.S. Government

Microsoft Sues US Government over Gag Orders

Says 1986 law violates its First Amendment, customers' Fourth Amendment rights.

Kelly Fiveash | April 15, 2016

Microsoft has filed a lawsuit against the US government over the number of secrecy orders it has received that allow g-men and cops access to customers' e-mails and other records.
The software giant's chief legal officer Brad Smith said that gag orders had been applied to 2,576 such demands over the course of an 18-month period. Microsoft's top counsel added that 1,752 (68 percent) of those secrecy orders had no end date—"This means we effectively are prohibited forever from telling our customers that the government has obtained their data," he said.

To be clear, we appreciate that there are times when secrecy around a government warrant is needed. This is the case, for example, when disclosure of the government’s warrant would create a real risk of harm to another individual or when disclosure would allow people to destroy evidence and thwart an investigation. But based on the many secrecy orders we have received, we question whether these orders are grounded in specific facts that truly demand secrecy. To the contrary, it appears that the issuance of secrecy orders has become too routine.
Microsoft brings this case because its customers have a right to know when the government obtains a warrant to read their emails, and because Microsoft has a right to tell them. Yet the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“ECPA”) allows courts to order Microsoft to keep its customers in the dark when the government seeks their email content or other private information, based solely on a “reason to believe” that disclosure might hinder an investigation. Nothing in the statute requires that the “reason to believe” be grounded in the facts of the particular investigation, and the statute contains no limit on the length of time such secrecy orders may be kept in place. 

<more at; related links and articles: (Today, the US will argue its claim over data held on servers outside the US. US wants warrant "to break down the doors of Microsoft’s Dublin facility." September 9, 2015) and (Microsoft Sues Government Over Its ECPA-Enabled Gag Orders. April 15, 2016)>

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