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Microsoft Sues US Government for “Unconstitutional” User Data Snooping

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Microsoft has just filed a lawsuit against the United States Justice Department, claiming that accessing user data stored in the cloud without letting customers know about it is “unconstitutional.”

Specifically, the lawsuit filed in US District Court of Seattle, claims that by accessing email and other cloud data belonging to users is not constitutional unless the customer who is being investigated is informed first, according to a report by GeekWire.

Microsoft says Section 2705(b) of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act “violates both the Fourth and the Fifth Amendment,” explaining that “people do not give up their rights when they move their private information from physical storage to the cloud. Microsoft therefore asks the Court to declare that Section 2705(b) is unconstitutional on its face.”

More than 2,600 secrecy orders in 18 months

The aforementioned regulation allows the government to obtain an order that would block companies from letting customers know that their data is being analyzed by law enforcement agencies.

The Redmond-based software giant says that federal courts have issued a total of 2,600 such secrecy orders only in the last 18 months. Between September 2014 and March 2016, Redmond received more than 5,600 requests to provide the government with access to customer data or information. Some of these requests had no fixed end date, Microsoft claimed, which means that the company didn’t even know when it could let customers know that their data is being analyzed by the government.

“The vast majority of these secrecy orders related to consumer accounts and prevent Microsoft from telling affected individuals about the government’s intrusion into their personal affairs; others prevent Microsoft from telling business customers that the government has searched and seized the emails of individual employees of the customer,” it says.

Microsoft explains in the official lawsuit documents that there are indeed cases when tech companies shouldn’t inform customers that their cloud data is accessed by law enforcement agencies. But even so, such a secrecy order must come with a fixed date, after which users should find out about it, Microsoft explained.

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