The Stack Archive News Article

Microsoft drops secrecy order case as DoJ changes rules

Tue 24 Oct 2017

Microsoft has dropped a lawsuit on data request rules that it took out against the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ).

The Washington based giant took issue with the use of secrecy orders, which meant that the company, and others like it, were prevented from informing its customers when the government requested information from them.

The DoJ has now changed these rules by issuing a new policy, which limits the use of secrecy orders, and sets a time limit on the orders when they are used.

In a blog post, Microsoft chief legal officer and president, Brad Smith, said: ‘This is an important step for both privacy and free expression. It is an unequivocal win for our customers, and we’re pleased the DoJ has taken these steps to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans.’

According to Smith, Microsoft has been campaigning and advocating for the changes for months, alongside the lawsuit. The firm argued that the rules were unconstitutional on two counts – against the First Amendment right to free speech on behalf of the company, and the Fourth Amendment, which means people and businesses have the right to know when the government searches or seizes their property.

Smith argued the need for the government to bring its rules into a digital age, saying: ‘We believe strongly that these fundamental protections should not disappear just because customers store their personal information in the cloud rather than in file cabinets or desk drawers.’

He did acknowledge the occasional legitimate need to access customer information without their knowledge. However, he argued that there was a growing trend towards using secrecy orders as a matter of routine, which he described as ‘worrying.’

Despite the win for Microsoft, Smith has stated that it will continue to campaign for changes to outdated laws. For instance, it argues that there are problems with the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

According to Smith, the company will campaign Congress to update ‘outdated laws to better protect our digital rights while still enabling law enforcement to do its job.’


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