Microsoft Sues Justice Department; Wants Users to Know When They’re Being Spied On

Taking the baton from Apple in the war on privacy, Microsoft is suing the Justice Department for the right to tell its customers when the government is looking at their emails. Microsoft receives thousands of government requests for emails and documents, and it wants to let its users know when the government is snooping on them. The lawsuit cites a violation of our Fourth and First Amendment constitutional rights.

Microsoft is arguing that the government is violating two constitutional rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. By snooping without the user’s awareness, the government is bypassing our Fourth Amendment right, which establishes the right for people and businesses to know if the government searches or seizes their property. The government’s actions are also violating our First Amendment right to free speech, argues the suit.

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The problem is that the government has been using the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to legally access data stored in the cloud. However, the law is 30 years old, which means it was passed far before the internet and can’t possibly cover the complex issues of today. Our general transition to the cloud, from physical storage to remote storage, has created a loophole in the law that the government is using to its full extent.

“People do not give up their rights when they move their private information from physical storage to the cloud,” Microsoft said in the lawsuit. The government “has exploited the transition to cloud computing as a means of expanding its power to conduct secret investigations.” Microsoft noted that it’s received 5,624 legal orders under the ECPA. Yet 2,576 of those requests prevented Microsoft from letting the user know that the government is seeking their customer data. Most of the ECPA requests were for individuals and held no end date for when the snooping would cease. The fact that Microsoft can even report how many requests it received was won in a court of law by the company two years ago.

Apple got a lot of good press for standing up to the government after it requested Apple create a hackable iOS, and some people are suggesting that Microsoft wanted in on the publicity. Either way, awareness is spreading and tech companies have the platform the spread it.


source: Huffington Post

Top Image Credit: Brandon Bourdages / Shutterstock.com

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Conner Carey's picture

Conner Carey's writing can be found at conpoet.com. She is currently writing a book, creating lots of content, and writing poetry via @conpoet on Instagram. She lives in an RV full-time with her mom, Jan and dog, Jodi as they slow-travel around the country.