Apple Inc., Google and Amazon.com Inc. were among the tech leaders that rallied behind Microsoft Corp. in its battle to stop the U.S. government from conducting so-called sneak-and-peek searches of customer e-mails. The companies yesterday filed friend-of-the-court briefs to support Microsoft in its legal fight with the U.S. Department of Justice. Microsoft’s lawsuit is aimed at striking down a law that prevents companies from telling customers about government data requests, reports Reuters.
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Microsoft filed its lawsuit against the Justice Department in April, saying that the government is using the authority of the 30-year-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act to prevent companies from informing customers when they hand over private data stored in the cloud. Microsoft argues that the government is violating the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees the right for people and businesses to know if the government is searching or seizing their property, and the company’s First Amendment right to free speech, which it would use to inform customers.
Microsoft and its supporters argue the very future of mobile and cloud computing is at stake if customers can’t trust that their data will remain private. A group of 11 technology firms including Google said Friday in its court filing that the federal law allowing the searches goes “far beyond any necessary limits” while infringing users’ fundamental rights.
“The government’s ability to engage in surreptitious searches of homes and tangible things is practically and legally limited,” the companies said in the filing. “But the act allows the government to search personal data stored in the cloud without ever notifying an account owner that her data has been searched.”
Delta Air Lines Inc. and BP America Inc. along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other businesses also asked to join the case in support of Microsoft, saying the benefits of cloud computing won’t be realized if privacy rights aren’t protected against government surveillance. Those companies, some of which are Microsoft customers, include Eli Lilly & Co. and GlaxoSmithKline Plc. Twitter Inc. also sought to join the fray.
For its part, the government’s argument for secrecy hinges on a “reason to believe” that such disclosures would hinder ongoing investigations. Microsoft agrees to a certain extent, but takes issue with the frequency, and ease, in which gag orders are imposed. Time to expiration is also an issue, as some secrecy mandates are kept in effect indefinitely.
The case is Microsoft Corp v United States Department of Justice et al in the United States District Court, Western District of Washington, No. 2:16-cv-00537. Read more from the source link below if you want to get into the nifty political details.
Source : Venture Beat