Microsoft 'will move forward with litigation' against U.S. government

The National Security Agency has been under the media spotlight this summer thanks to the many leaks of its online spying operations, and much of that information involves the NSA requesting online information gathered by many tech companies such as Microsoft. Today, the company said it will be taking its quest to reveal more information on the types of requests it receives from the US government to court.

In a blog post, Microsoft's General Counsel and Executive Vice President Brad Smith said today the company had filed a lawsuit against the government in June, along with Google, on this issue, with Smith saying they have the rights under the U.S. Constitution to release this kind of information directly to the public. Smith said they extended the deadline for the government to respond to Microsoft's lawsuit six times this summer but now it looks like six times was not enough for the two sides to come to terms.

Smith says that Microsoft "will move forward with litigation" in this case. He added that while the U.S. government did announce this week that it would reveal the total number of its national security requests for customer data for the past 12 months but Microsoft does not consider that effort to be good enough. Smith said:

For example, we believe it is vital to publish information that clearly shows the number of national security demands for user content, such as the text of an email.  These figures should be published in a form that is distinct from the number of demands that capture only metadata such as the subscriber information associated with a particular email address.  We believe it’s possible to publish these figures in a manner that avoids putting security at risk.  And unless this type of information is made public, any discussion of government practices and service provider obligations will remain incomplete.

While Google has not commented publicly on its own efforts to fight the government on this matter, Smith wrote "today our two companies stand together" in an unusual show of solidarity with one of its biggest business rivals.

Source: Microsoft | Security image via Shutterstock

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31 Comments

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all these company's should just go public with all the info. I mean what are the feds going to actually do? becaise if we all knew what was going on and the feds tried to shut down these companies the feds would be affected to and also the citizens would rise up and stand on the side of the corps. thebfeds wouldnt stanf a chance. if it was my company a gag order would mean crap. my first amendment right protects .e to a right of free speech even if tgat speech is against the feds who are criminals. screw them.

Until I see the real court battle about this,
I would assume this just another hollow empty promises from Microsoft.

Torolol said,
Until I see the real court battle about this, I would assume this just another hollow empty promises from Microsoft.

If you read the article you'll notice that Microsoft and Google has already filed the lawsuit. That's about as real as it gets, unless you're thinking they'll drop it later and go "just kidding."

If it weren't for Microsoft, no one would be standing up to the NSA. I really appreciate them spending the resources to make this more publicly known.

No, Microsoft is just desperate to show consumers that it's fighting because they were the first to sign up for PRISM and gave full access to everything.

CygnusOrion said,
No, Microsoft is just desperate to show consumers that it's fighting because they were the first to sign up for PRISM and gave full access to everything.

Why is it that anything even mentioning Microsoft has to have somebody saying "desperate" in the comments section? Do something right or wrong, doesn't matter. Desperate. That's of course you're willing to overlook the fact that they (among other companies) were forced into doing this, "signing up" makes it sound like they joined a book of the month club.

Max Norris said,

Why is it that anything even mentioning Microsoft has to have somebody saying "desperate" in the comments section? Do something right or wrong, doesn't matter. Desperate. That's of course you're willing to overlook the fact that they (among other companies) were forced into doing this, "signing up" makes it sound like they joined a book of the month club.

I'm glad someone else pointed that out. I'm not sure if Microsoft had a choice in the matter.

Except ask yourself why Microsoft signed up first and Apple last. Then ask yourself about these companies governing philosophies and you just answered my question.

CygnusOrion said,
Except ask yourself why Microsoft signed up first and Apple last. Then ask yourself about these companies governing philosophies and you just answered my question.

And if the companies decided not to comply with the government?

Xenosion said,

Edward isn't suing the US government. I thought that was pretty obvious.

No.. But until Snowden leaked the secrets about the scale and breadth of the spying going on, people were largely oblivious to it and subsequently the big tech companies like Google, Microsoft, etc were saying nothing about suing the government.

What's the deal? I didn't say Snowden didn't do anything. The absence of Snowden in my comment does not mean one thing or another. What your comments are inferring is that any mention of protest to the US government over NSA concerns is obligated to credit Snowden. Well, I'm sorry, but this article is about Microsoft.

Max Norris said,

Why is it that anything even mentioning Microsoft has to have somebody saying "desperate" in the comments section? Do something right or wrong, doesn't matter. Desperate. That's of course you're willing to overlook the fact that they (among other companies) were forced

Yes and that's the point. MS were forced YEARS AGO but only now they are complaining(*)

IMHO : MS (amongst other big companies) are willing to give away our information because they are profiting from it (NSA is paying for it).

(*) without lobby, it is pretty unlikely that MS will achieve something and MS know that.


Brony said,
IMHO : MS (amongst other big companies) are willing to give away our information because they are profiting from it (NSA is paying for it).

Copy-pasting Yahoo's response about this, they explain it better than I can. "Federal law requires the US government to reimburse providers for costs incurred to respond to compulsory legal process imposed by the government. We have requested reimbursement consistent with this law." And Microsoft responded with "Microsoft only complies with court orders because it is legally ordered to, not because it is reimbursed for the work. We could have a more informed discussion of these issues if providers could share additional information, including aggregate statistics on the number of any national security orders they may receive." Google's waiting until they're allowed to talk freely. You make it sound like they are selling a product, they being Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, etc, let's not make this a Microsoft only thing. Covering the third party's costs isn't profiting.

Huh, I would say I'm impressed although something tells me it's just a PR stunt and that somehow these legal fees will be written off on their taxes or something lol.

92GTA said,
Huh, I would say I'm impressed although something tells me it's just a PR stunt and that somehow these legal fees will be written off on their taxes or something lol.

PR stunt or not, they'd be able to since its a business expense. That said? Since Microsoft is really pushing their cloud computing, and foreign countries are getting nervous about US based companies because of all the NSA stuff? They likely want to be able to be more transparent with customers.

92GTA said,
THAT makes sense.
There have been foreign companies who are stopping business with cloud providers like Microsoft, Amazon, etc., because they're not sure their data is secure/actually private. Maybe they're afraid information will leak, maybe they have privacy laws in their own countries they have to comply with that would be violated, maybe its pressure from customers. Hard to say.

Hell, I wonder how many people or companies are more afraid of the cloud now as a result? Sort of stinks that this happened, especially now as the whole idea is really getting steam. But, then, best to have things happen early, provided the public gets involved enough to force change.

Enron said,
If the two truly stand together, they should get working on that Youtube app on Windows Phone.

Google wants to make it hard for people to use WP because it runs way better on dirt-cheap phones than Android does.

Enron said,
If the two truly stand together, they should get working on that Youtube app on Windows Phone.

In a matter of picking battles? this one is more important than me having a native YouTube app for my Lumia. Good to see them coming together on something that matters to everyone.

mrp04 said,

Google wants to make it hard for people to use WP because it runs way better on dirt-cheap phones than Android does.

No different than MSFT cutting out Lotus, Wordperfect, Netscape et all back in the day by restricting access to hidden API's. Karma's a bitch they say.

recursive said,

No different than MSFT cutting out Lotus, Wordperfect, Netscape et all back in the day by restricting access to hidden API's. Karma's a bitch they say.

Those were just inferior products. MS didn't block them from publishing their applications either.

recursive said,

No different than MSFT cutting out Lotus, Wordperfect, Netscape et all back in the day by restricting access to hidden API's. Karma's a bitch they say.

Two wrongs don't make a right. Google is hurting the consumers now just as Microsoft did then.

TsarNikky said,
WordPerfect and Netscape were inferior product?? Hardly. In addition to Karma, bullies eventually "get it in the end."

Oh I guess that's why everyone is still using them today then, right?

"...And unless this type of information is made public, any discussion of government practices and service provider obligations will remain incomplete."
Well done, we've worked out what the government wants...