Apple and Google join Microsoft over Gag Order Fight. Amazon, Cisco Systems, Apple and Twitter, have filed briefs in a federal court to back Microsoft’s move to prevent the indiscriminate use by U.S. law enforcement of orders that force companies not to inform their users about requests for their data.
Friday was the deadline for filing of friend-of-the-court briefs by nonparticipants in the case. The filings show broad support for Microsoft and the technology industry in its latest high-profile clash with the U.S. Justice Department over digital privacy and surveillance.
Microsoft’s backers included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, Delta Air Lines Inc. Also Eli Lilly and Co, BP America, the Washington Post, Fox News, the National Newspaper Association, Apple Inc, Alphabet, Google, Amazon.com Inc, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and many others.
Microsoft filed its lawsuit in Seattle federal court in April. They are asking for a law allowing the government to seize computer data located on third-party computers and often barring companies from telling their customers that they are targets is unconstitutional.
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. People should know when the government accesses their emails unless secrecy is truly needed.
“When requesting user data, these gag orders are sometimes issued without the government demonstrating why the gag order is necessary,” wrote Denelle Dixon-Thayer, chief legal and business officer at Mozilla.
In April, Microsoft’s Smith wrote.
To be clear, we appreciate that there are times when secrecy around a government warrant is needed. This is the case, for example, when disclosure of the government’s warrant would create a real risk of harm to another individual or when disclosure would allow people to destroy evidence and thwart an investigation.
“We have received many secrecy orders. We question whether these orders are grounded in specific facts that truly demand secrecy. To the contrary, it appears that the issuance of secrecy orders has become too routine.”