Microsoft sued the United States Justice Department, over a common practice that forces tech companies to hand over data about their customers to the government without the customer’s knowledge.
The case was filed last week to combat a law permitting agencies the ability to demand to read emails or online files without an owner’s permission or knowledge. This, in Microsoft’s opinion, violates the Constitution of the United States. The power-house tech company feels strongly that the U.S. government cannot bar tech companies from telling customers when their data has been compromised or examined by federal agents.
Microsoft chief counsel, Brad Smith, stated the company filed this suit because it was an issue of fundamental rights: “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.” Microsoft is arguing in defense of the Fourth and the First Amendment.
This is not the first time the federal government has come under fire for these gag orders geared towards tech companies. In 2013, a California judge said that these rules are in breach of free speech and expression. Twitter is also currently battling the government for the right to disclose how many national security letters they receive (which currently they are only allowed to release in batches of 1,000).
We believe that customer privacy and data security are two of the most important values a company should uphold, and will be watching to see how this unfolds.