Friday, 15 April 2016 10:08

You can’t fight city hall – tell that to Microsoft Featured


Microsoft is suing the US Government to protect its user’s privacy. This high-profile suit puts it in the driver’s seat as the plaintiff – not the defendant as was the case with FBI and Apple.

It has sued the US government, arguing that secret warrants to search people's email violate constitutional rights of Americans. Note that this lawsuit can only be served in America due to its constitutional rights system.

Microsoft says its customers have a right to know when the government obtains a warrant to read their emails, and because Microsoft must have a right to tell them according to the federal court filing in Seattle.

The lawsuit states that a requirement to keep silent on warrants for data - based on a presumption that tipping people off might hamper investigations - violates constitutional protection of free speech and safeguards against unreasonable searches.

In the past 18 months, federal courts have issued nearly 2,600 secrecy orders gagging Microsoft from saying anything about warrants and other legal actions targeting customer’s data, according to the filing.

"We believe that with rare exceptions consumers and businesses have a right to know when the government accesses their emails or records," Microsoft chief legal officer Brad Smith said in a blog post. It warrants a thorough read.

"Yet it's becoming routine for the US government to issue orders that require email providers to keep these types of legal demands secret. We believe that this goes too far, and we are asking the courts to address the situation. Internet giants have complained that these types of secret search warrants erode trust in US technology companies while trampling on the rights of citizens and businesses,” he said.

The situation has become more urgent as computing and data storage services shift from software packages loaded onto individual computers to servers running in the Internet cloud.

"Today, individuals increasingly keep their emails and documents on remote servers in data centres - in short, in the cloud. But the transition to the cloud does not alter people's expectations of privacy and should not alter the fundamental constitutional requirement that the government must - with few exceptions - give notice when it searches and seizes private information or communications,” he said.

Microsoft's legal challenge follows a high-stakes battle over FBI demands for access to an iPhone used by a gunman in a December 2 rampage that left 14 dead in San Bernardino, California.

The government wanted Apple to create a new tool to bypass the smartphone's security systems, but the company refused. Although that showdown ended with investigators saying they had extracted the data from the iPhone on their own, the Justice Department reignited the battle last week in a separate case involving someone accused of trafficking in methamphetamines.

Apple argued that the government is overstepping its authority and is intent on establishing a troubling legal precedent, contending that lawmakers should decide the degree to which third parties can be compelled to work for the government.


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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!



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