Microsoft has sued the United States government in what seems to be the latest battle in the war over privacy which is ongoing between Washington and Silicon Valley. The lawsuit was filed last Thursday in Seattle, and points out the violation of the US Constitution by the government which wants to prevent the company from notifying its users they are being watched.
In legal terms, the actions of the government contravene the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which states that both people and businesses have a right to know if the government searches their property. The same stands for the First Amendment of Microsoft for the right of free speech.
At the moment, the filing is being reviewed by the Department of Justice. The suit is focused more on the remote servers where data is stored rather than the local computers of people. The government seems to be making use of the ECPA (Electronic Communications Privacy Act) to direct its investigations to the parties storing data on Microsoft Cloud. This ancient law which has been in place for thirty years has been criticized by many because the Internet has made a huge evolution since then, and thus it should be adapted accordingly.
Microsoft has stated that
“People do not give up their rights when they move their private information from physical storage to the cloud. The government has exploited the transition to cloud computing as a means of expanding its power to conduct secret investigations.”
This move from Microsoft places the company in a more prominent place in this battle over data protection, which is currently dominated by Apple. Apple has been in the spotlight over the past months because it refused to decrypt the smartphone of the San Bernardino shooter for the FBI. In the end, the Federal Bureau of Investigation hired a private group of hackers to do the job.
While many leading companies seem to join efforts against data surveillance, some believe this move is drawn by business interests. Microsoft wants to assure its users that the Cloud system is safe to use since this sector of the business is becoming more prominent with each passing day.
At the moment, the company is battling on a separate front with the government over a warrant to give up data stored on a server in Ireland. While Microsoft states that the government has to go through a special procedure listed on a treaty between Ireland and the United States, the government argues that the server is legally just a part of ECPA.
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