Microsoft Gains Major Allies in DOJ Gag Order Battle

Redmond?EU?s battle against the U.S. Department of Justice got a boost just before the long weekend, thanks to an amicus brief filed on its behalf by several major tech companies, including Apple, Google, and Mozilla. They joined other groups, such as the ACLU, which filed briefs earlier this year in support of Microsoft?EU?s position.

At issue is Microsoft?EU?s lawsuit against the government?EU?s indiscriminate use of gag orders that prevents the company from informing its customers when a government agency requests access to their data. The suit argues that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), which allows the government to seize data without informing suspects, is unconstitutional.

?EU?Critical to Our Vision?EU?

?EU?Transparency is the core pillar for everything we do at Mozilla," Denelle Dixon-Thayer, Mozilla?EU?s chief legal and business officer, wrote on the company blog Friday. "It is foundational to how we build our products, with an open code base that anybody can inspect, and is critical to our vision of an open, trusted, secure web that places users in control of their experience online."

When requesting user data, the gag orders are sometimes issued even though the government hasn't demonstrated why the gag orders are necessary, Dixon-Thayer added.

?EU?Worse yet, the government often issues indefinite orders that prevent companies from notifying users even years later, long after everyone would agree the gag order is no longer needed," she said. "These actions needlessly sacrifice transparency without justification. That?EU?s foolish and unacceptable.?EU?

A Broad Coalition

The debate centers around the ECPA, a 30-year-old piece of legislation that the government has been using more and more as a justification to seize personal and business records stored on ?EU?external servers?EU? as per the law. But in a world where information is increasingly stored or backed up to the cloud, such an interpretation of the law gives the government...

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