Microsoft has sued the U.S. Department of Justice for overusing its power to secretly search customers.
I’m very happy to see Microsoft stepping up and joining the important conversation happening in congress and court in the U.S. that is shaping the future of national security, civil rights in the digital and connected world, and the much needed encryption needed to allow an entire world to safety use the internet the way we do today.
Jose Pagliery writing for CNN,
Microsoft filed a landmark lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday, taking a stand against the way federal agents routinely search its customers’ personal information in secret.
Microsoft says in it’s lawsuit,
People do not give up their rights when they move their private information from physical storage to the cloud… The government, however, has exploited the transition to cloud computing as a means of expanding its power to conduct secret investigations.
It seem’s to me that Microsoft, like Apple in it’s defense, is mostly focused on brining an area of current law that’s murky, full of government overreach and that doesn’t fit in our current connected world to light, hoping that it sees change, either in the courtroom or in congress.
Microsoft isn’t arguing for the government ALWAYS informing people of a search (they of course want to keep the possibility of situations where the investigation needs to move quickly and quietly so that the criminal doesn’t delete evidence and or evade police in a serious situation) – it’s simply seeing an massive over-use of such measures that it claims doesn’t add up.
At issue here is the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which creates a double standard when it comes to a person’s right to know when police are rummaging through their stuff.
Normally, a person must be told when police — with a search warrant — search their home to look for clues to a crime.
Nowadays, people keep lots of email, notes, contact lists, and pictures on computer servers at Microsoft and elsewhere. Under this 1986 law, police can get a special exemption to search those computers and keep the company from informing its customers when law enforcement has ordered a search.
Whether the government has had good reason for all 2,600 uninformed “secret searches” federal judges has approved over the last 18 months, is up to the courts, but I’m happy the conversation is happening and that Microsoft is playing it’s part in pressing these issues and asking questions.