Todd Bishop, reporting for GeekWire: Microsoft is suing the U.S. Justice Department, asking a federal judge to declare unconstitutional a provision of U.S. law that lets the government keep Microsoft and other tech companies from informing their customers when investigators seek access to emails and other cloud data. The suit, filed moments ago in U.S. District Court in Seattle, targets Section 2705(b) of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which allows the government to seek and obtain secrecy orders preventing companies from letting their customers know when their data is the target of a federal warrant, subpoena or court order. Brad Smith, Microsoft's president and chief legal officer, recently criticized the 30-year-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act as outdated during his testimony in February before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee -- bringing along IBM's first laptop, released the same year, to help illustrate his point.
that these "indefinite gag orders" violate the First Amendment rights to inform customers. Furthermore, the company adds that the law also "flouts" the Fourth Amendment, which requires the government to give a notice to the concerned person when his or her property is being searched or seized. "This is a First Amendment fight that needed to get picked and I'm glad Microsoft picked it. Just as in the real world with physical seizures, secrecy in digital seizures should be the exception and not the rule. Yet as the Microsoft complaint shows, it's receiving thousands of law enforcement gag orders every year and more than two-thirds of them are eternal gags with no end data," said Kevin Bankston, internet freedom advocate and digital rights lawyer. "This is clearly unconstitutional, yet with so many orders per year, it makes sense to strike at the root with a facial challenge to the law rather than try and challenge them all individually. And based on previous similar cases around gag orders in national security cases, I think they'll succeed in striking this overbroad law down."