Microsoft becomes unlikely ally against federal data secrecy

Microsoft gave a stern declaration earlier this week in its official blog that details the company’s disapproval of certain law enforcement agency policies, especially when it comes to requesting user data for any kind of legally sanctioned purpose.

According to the tech giant, the requesting of data by any law enforcement agency should be redirected to the legal owner of the data itself. At the very least, the gag order should be followed up directly by a notification that tells the individual, organization, or institution that the search request was made.

Current U.S. law states that host institutions and companies may be actively prohibited from letting users know that their data is being requested and/or searched by authorized law enforcement agencies. If such order was issued, the host organization or company does have the option to counter this request by challenging it in court. This was exactly the case when Microsoft successfully defended its case with the FBI following several gag orders for them that were released within the last few years.

It would seem that this time, Microsoft is doubling down even further with its stance against this type of non-disclosure ruling. The official blog left this rather powerful statement, referencing a specific case last 2018, that further challenges the U.S. lawmakers’ authority over issuing gag orders:

“Based on the limited information available to us in this case, we feel the secrecy order was too broadly drawn and is inconsistent with the U.S. government’s policy that secrecy orders be narrowly tailored.”

Microsoft’s next big step over this is to fight the current state of law, and to call for updated principles that would regulate government or law enforcement access to data. At the very least, Microsoft promises to always challenge the ruling and to question the need for secrecy. First, whenever the situation becomes too “imprecise”. And second, if the authorized body consistently refuses to disclose more details as to why it needs to keep its access to private data a secret.

Featured Image credit by Northsky 71 via Flickr

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