Is the government entering your online home and spying on you?
The Internet companies you pay for/work with/access are not allowed to tell you. It’s called a gag order, and it is used by the government to hide even its “legal,” warranted, surveillance of you. Under the law, you have a right to due process in these matters, but you can’t challenge what you do not know even exists.
In a move that seeks to change some of that, Microsoft is suing the Justice Department, challenging its frequent use of secrecy orders that prevent Microsoft from telling people when the government obtains a warrant to read their emails.
In its suit, filed Thursday morning in Federal District Court in Seattle, the company asserts that the gag order statute in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 — as employed today by federal prosecutors and the courts — is unconstitutional. The statute, according to Microsoft, violates the Fourth Amendment right of its customers to know if the government searches or seizes their property, and it breaches the company’s First Amendment right to speak to its customers.
The suit, unlike Apple’s fight with the Federal Bureau of Investigation over access to a locked iPhone, is not attached to a single case. Instead, it is intended to challenge the legal underpinning of gag/secrecy orders itself, on fully Constitutional grounds. Such a legal strategy is designed to pressure the government into making changes, or potentially face a precedent-setting Supreme Court decision.
Microsoft’s chief legal officer said “People should not lose their rights just because they are storing their information in the cloud.”
A spokeswoman for the Justice Department said officials were “reviewing the filing.”