Microsoft has gained the support of over 80 tech companies, businesses and privacy groups in its lawsuit against the US Justice Department's use of gag orders to prevent companies from informing users regarding government data requests.
The company filed its lawsuit in April and now it has over 80 signatories supporting its cause. Microsoft's supporters include a number of high profile tech companies including Apple, Google and Amazon, as well as media giants such as Fox News and the Washington Post. The privacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is also standing behind the company in its fight for greater transparency.
Apple and Twitter have both submitted briefs detailing how they have received a growing number of requests from US Government agencies to provide customer data. So far in 2016 alone, Apple has received around 590 “unlimited or indefinite duration” gag orders. Twitter on the other hand was pressured into turning over customer data 6,432 times with over 50 per cent of the requests it received including a gag order.
In its brief, Twitter offered more details on how the gag orders placed on the company work, saying: “The standard for an unlimited gag order is so low that it can be met in almost every case. Once entered, the gag order will tend to stay in place.”
The EFF believes that by not informing users in regard to their information being requested that the government is violating the US Constitution. The privacy group explained why it has chosen to support Microsoft's lawsuit in its brief, saying: “EFF is supporting Microsoft in its lawsuit challenging portions of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) that allow the Department of Justice (DOJ) to serve a warrant on the company to get access to customers' emails and other information stored on remote servers – all without telling users their data is being searched or seized.”
Microsoft has chosen to take a stance on this issue and the willingness of other large tech companies to support it shows that this is an issue that matters to businesses as well as individual users.
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