Ever since the Snowden revelations, tech companies have been tripping over themselves to prove to consumers that they can be trusted when it comes to user privacy. In such a move, Microsoft, in April, sued the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) over gagging rules which the governmental department can enact on companies, preventing them from telling users that their data has been requested.
Unfortunately for the DoJ, Microsoft is now backed by a bunch of big tech companies who are also affected by gagging rules, as well legal specialists from organisations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Strangely enough, even Fox News has jumped in to defend Microsoft.
According to legal experts at EFF, Microsoft's defence lies in the Fourth Amendment, which “prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any warrant to be judicially sanction and supported by probable cause.” According to EFF Senior Staff Attorney, Lee Tien, the US government should respect the constitution, he says:
“Whether the government has a warrant to rifle through our email, safety deposit boxes, or emails stored in the cloud, it must notify people about the searches. When electronic searches are done in secret, we lose our right to challenge the legality of the law enforcement invasions of privacy. The Fourth Amendment doesn't allow that, and it's time for the government to set up and respect the Constitution.”
Mozilla, another Microsoft backer in the case, says it is yet to receive a gag order that could prevent it from notifying users about a request for data. In its statement on the case, Mozilla said:
“And transparency – of more appropriately the lack thereof – is why we care about this case. When requesting user data, these gag orders are sometimes issued without the government demonstrating why the gag order is necessary. Worse yet, the government often issues indefinite orders that prevent companies from notifying users even years later, long after everyone would agree the gag order is no longer needed. These actions needlessly sacrifice transparency without justification. That's foolish and unacceptable.”
Only time will tell whether all the extra support Microsoft has received will actually return a win for the corporation.