As we have reported over the summer, Microsoft is locked in a legal battle with the US government. The company is on a crusade to maintain privacy standards for data requests. However, Microsoft is no longer on its own in its fight with the United States Department of Justice (DoJ). Some huge tech companies and organizations are now backing up Microsoft.
Microsoft has faced the government over two issues. The first is a request made to Microsoft for data held in an Ireland-based data center. The company insists that it should not have to give up data held in foreign countries. Doing so would set a dangerous precedent and courts have so far agreed.
Secondly, Microsoft has sued the Department of Justice over rights to inform customers that the government makes data requests. When a DoJ request is made, the government can impose a gagging order on the tech company. Microsoft says this is unfair and customers should be told.
Now some tech giants are stepping up to back up Microsoft. Apple, Lithium Technologies, Twilio, and Mozilla have backed Microsoft. Of course, Apple has faced its own struggle with the US government. Cupertino refused to hand over details of the San Bernardino terrorist, saying it would compromise security.
Interestingly, Microsoft was only lukewarm in its support of Apple. However, the company clearly sees the bigger picture with this problem. More than just issuing support, Apple and dozens of other companies and organizations have filed in support of Microsoft. Among them is Fox News and ACLU, which Brad Smith, Microsoft president and chief legal officer, pointed out was ironic.
“We’re grateful for the strong support from over 80 signatories that reflect so many diverse views. After all, it’s not every day that Fox News and the ACLU are on the same side of an issue,” said Smith.
The filing was made by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which incidentally criticized Microsoft recently. If anything, this case shows that tech companies and other entities are willing to put rivalries to the side.
In the filing, the EFF points out that this is a fourth amendment issue. The Fourth Amendment “prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any warrant to be judicially sanction and supported by probable cause.” According to EFF Senior Staff Attorney, Lee Tien.
“Whether the government has a warrant to rifle through our email, safety deposit boxes, or emails stored in the cloud, it must notify people about the searches. When electronic searches are done in secret, we lose our right to challenge the legality of the law enforcement invasions of privacy. The Fourth Amendment doesn’t allow that, and it’s time for the government to set up and respect the Constitution.”