The US government’s motion to dismiss Microsoft’s complaint comes up for oral arguments on Monday and the judge has said he expects both sides to address the issue of the Fourth Amendment claim.
The question is whether Fourth Amendment rights are personal or can be vicariously”asserted by third-parties on behalf of their customers.
Judge James Robart of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington at Seattle, has also cited cases in which the decisions had gone against companies and other organizations that represented their customers in Fourth Amendment disputes.
The Fourth Amendment provides “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,”.
Back in April 2016, Microsoft filed a lawsuit against the United States government to “stand up for what we believe are our customers’ constitutional and fundamental rights – rights that help protect privacy and promote free expression.”
Google, Apple, Twitter, Amazon, and Cisco Systems have also filed briefs in the federal court, backing Microsoft along with several civil rights groups, trade bodies, and companies.
Whether Microsoft has standing to pursue Fourth Amendment claim or not will be decided after the two sides speak before the judge next Monday.
Facebook vs. NYCD Attorney’s Office
The question of whether service provider companies can sue on behalf of their customers has figured in other lawsuits in the past, including the one Facebook filed against the New York County District Attorney’s Office.
Facebook sued over a set of bulk warrants asking from the company to turn over to the Manhattan District Attorney the contents of 381 user accounts, in secret. A lower court decision barred Facebook from protecting the privacy of its users against the warrants.
In October 2015 and again in December 2016, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a motion for leave to file an amicus brief, recommending that the New York Court of Appeals reverse the lower court decision. A final verdict has yet to be reached in this case.