The latest in the battle over digital privacy
April 14, 2016
It’s becoming increasingly clear that the battle between the federal government and Apple over peeking into users’ phones was just the beginning.
After the feds found a way to hack into one of the San Bernadino shooters’ phones without Apple’s assistance, that particular episode was laid to rest.
But the underlying issue wasn’t. Does the government have the right to access sensitive information on people’s phones and other devices? Should the government be doing it in secret? And do tech companies need to cooperate in such efforts?
Microsoft doesn’t want to wait around to find out.
In an offensive move, the company has sued the Department of Justice, objecting to the government’s practice of issuing orders to providers turn over emails and other information in secret.
“We believe that with rare exceptions consumers and businesses have a right to know when the government accesses their emails or records,” reads a blog post by Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer.
“Yet it’s becoming routine for the U.S. government to issue orders that require email providers to keep these types of legal demands secret. We believe that this goes too far and we are asking the courts to address the situation.”
The suit was filed in Seattle federal court. Smith specifies that there are some cases in which secrecy is clearly for the greater good, but not in most.
Microsoft claims that the DOJ has demanded secrecy in 2,576 instances.
These demands have placed providers such as Microsoft and Apple in delicate situations. They want to protect their users’ privacy, or else, they worry, those people will find new providers. But they also can provide a wealth of information that would be quite useful to the government’s war on terror.
This isn’t the first legal matter being pursued under tech privacy laws, and it won’t be the last.
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