Thursday, April 14, 2016

Microsoft Sues Government Over Covert Email Searches

Microsoft on Thursday sued the U.S. government for the right to tell its customers when federal authorities are looking at their emails, arguing that gag orders preventing them from doing so violate the Constitution. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Seattle, is the latest in a series of clashes over privacy rights and government transparency between the Obama administration and the tech industry following leaks to the press in 2013 about massive surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency. It notably comes on the heels of court battles between the FBI and Apple over access to iPhone data in criminal investigations. In an online post about the lawsuit, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said it was the fourth public case the company has instigated against the government related to customer privacy rights and transparency. Smith said Microsoft understands that government searches of customer data should be kept secret when disclosure would thwart an investigation, create "a real risk of harm" to someone or allow suspects the opportunity to destroy evidence. But he said it appears that it's become "too routine" for the government to be able to forbid email providers from divulging when authorities have gained access to customer emails or other online records, and that the company questions "whether these orders are grounded in specific facts that truly demand secrecy." "These lengthy and even permanent secrecy orders violate the Fourth Amendment, which gives people and businesses the right to know if the government searches or seizes their property," he said. "They also violate the First Amendment, which guarantees our right to talk to customers about how government action is affecting their data."...more

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