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Microsoft sues U.S. government: You can’t keep us quiet!

by Todd Haselton | April 14, 2016April 14, 2016 10:40 am PST

Microsoft Lumia 950-1

The number of American tech companies who are suspicious of the U.S. government’s activities is increasing. Microsoft is now officially suing the U.S. government because it believes that citizens deserve to know if and when the feds request otherwise private data on their activities.

“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,” reads the opening sentence in the filing with the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Washington. Microsoft said that, currently, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) forces the company to keep all search requests mum.

That technically means the U.S. feds might have asked Microsoft for data on you and that, by law, Microsoft can’t tell you. Worse, as Microsoft notes, “the statue contains no limit on the length of time such secrecy orders may be kept in place.” So, really, it never has to tell you.

Microsoft said this isn’t right, especially since we all used to keep data in “file cabinets and desk drawers” where we knew it was safe. Now that data is stored in the cloud, however, that information is somehow much more within the grasp of the U.S. government. “The transition to the cloud does not alter the fundamental constitutional requirement that the government must – with few exceptions-give notice when it searches and seizes the private information or communications of individuals or businesses.”

The base argument here is that Microsoft at least wants to be able to say, “look, man, someone from the government is rifling through your stuff.” As it stands, the feds aren’t even leaving fingerprints.


Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...