Microsoft’s quest to put a stop the US government’s habit of demanding access to customers’ digital records in court-ordered secrecy has won dozens of allies in the tech world.
The likes of Apple, Google, and Mozilla—among many others—have put their names to an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit Microsoft filed against the federal government over its controversial and continued use of gagging orders.
When the software giant filed the suit in April, its chief legal officer Brad Smith said that gag orders had been applied to 2,576 demands by various law enforcement agencies for access to user data, including e-mails, over an 18-month period.
More than two thirds of these (1,752) came with no end date, which he said effectively prohibited Microsoft forever “from telling our customers that the government has obtained their data”—which Redmond claims violates the Fourth Amendment (the people’s right not to be subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures of their property).
The latest development means that an eclectic mix of outfits have now lined up against Washington, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Washington Post, the US Chamber of Commerce, Delta Air Lines, BP America, and Fox News. According to Reuters, five former FBI and justice department officials have also written in support of Microsoft’s crusade.
Smith joked in a statement that “it’s not every day that Fox News and the ACLU are on the same side of an issue.” He added:
We believe the constitutional rights at stake in this case are of fundamental importance, and people should know when the government accesses their emails …