Microsoft Launches Legal Assault On U.S. DOJ Over Unconstitutional User Data Requests

As we grow increasingly dependent on various online services that contain information about our personal lives, the need for privacy is paramount. This has major tech companies at odds with the U.S. government, the latter of which would like unfettered access to all things digital. Rather than give in, Microsoft is fighting back by filing a lawsuit against the Department of Justice over a law that allows its to request customer emails without their knowledge.

Microsoft is fighting for customers' right to know when a government agency obtains a warrant to read their emails. As it currently stands, the DoJ can lean on the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (EPCA), which allows courts to order companies like Microsoft to refrain from informing customers when the government seeks access to their email communication or other private information.


According to the lawsuit, the criteria need only be a "reason to believe"  that informing customers would somehow get in the way of the investigation.

"Nothing in the statue requires that the 'reason to believe' be grounded in the facts of the particular investigation, and the statute contains no limit on the length of time such secrecy orders may be kept in place," Microsoft states in its lawsuit. "Consequently, as Microsoft's customers increasingly store their most private and sensitive information in the cloud, the government increasingly seeks (and obtains) secrecy orders."

Microsoft's argument is that what the government is doing and how it's going about it violates both the Fourth Amendment, which gives people and businesses the right to know when the government searches or seizes their property, and First Amendment covering free speech.

The lawsuit follows a high profile case that partially played out between Apple and the FBI over encryption and whether or not tech firms should be forced to help law enforcement agencies break into electronic devices. Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and other tech firms all stood in support of Apple, though the FBI dropped its suit after a third-party came to its aid and helped crack the locked iPhone 5c model that belonged to one of the San Bernardino shooters.

This all relates to unauthorized disclosures made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Back in 2013, Snowden revealed to the media several confidential documents outlining the extent to which the government spies on electronic communication.