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Microsoft to Drop Lawsuit after DOJ Agrees to Change Data Request Orders
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Summary: The Department of Justice has agreed to change their policy of delivering never-ending gag orders to companies over their users’ data.

When the United States government revised the rules on data requests, Microsoft announced they will drop their lawsuit against them. The change in data requests by the Department of Justice comes to the rules regarding when a company can or cannot alert internet users when agencies access their information and for how long they must go before they can notify their users.


The new policy will limit the use of secrecy orders and calls for those orders for defined periods, according to Microsoft Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith. He said in a blog post, “As a result of the issuance of this policy, we are taking steps to dismiss our lawsuit.” Microsoft said they hope the changes will end the practice of indefinite secrecy orders. Smith added, “The binding policy issued today by the Deputy U.S. Attorney General should diminish the number of orders that have a secrecy order attached, end the practice of indefinite secrecy orders, and make sure that every application for a secrecy order is carefully and specifically tailored to the facts in the case.”

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a three-page memo that companies will now be able to tell their customers that their data has been requested by authorities, at least in most cases. Several tech companies had issues with the previous rules, including Apple, Dropbox, Google, Salesforce, and Amazon.

Microsoft filed the lawsuit against the U.S. government in April 2016, claiming the government was violating the constitution by stopping them from telling their customers about requests from the government to access their emails and other documents. The argued that the government was in violation of the Fourth Amendment, establishing the right for people and businesses to know if the government was searching or seizing their property. They also contended that their First Amendment right to free speech was being violated.

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Smith explained that the changes to the requests are “carefully and specifically tailored to the facts in the case. This is an important step for both privacy and free expression. It is an unequivocal win for our customers, and we’re pleased the DOJ has taken these steps to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans.”

While Microsoft is planning to drop their lawsuit, they are still renewing their call to Congress for an amendment to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act adopted in 1986.

This lawsuit was in relation to a request from the government to emails stored in Microsoft computer servers in Dublin, Ireland during a drug trafficking investigation. The government lawyers argued that access to the emails was of national security and public safety. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed last week to hear the government’s appeal of a lower court’s ruling preventing them from accessing those emails.

The case was set to go to trial in June of 2018.

How do you think data should be protected? Does national security take priority? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

To learn more about legal challenges to how private data is handled, read these articles:




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