Microsoft sues Feds over secret customer data search, hopes to find middle ground

By: Madeleine Dean
2 minute read

Lately, we’ve been heavily reporting about the recent wave of lawsuits against Microsoft over the Windows 10 forced upgrade. Long story short: Microsoft lost a Windows 10 upgrade lawsuit and had to pay $10,000 in damages, and it appears this trial encouraged NY’s Attorney General to open a new case on the matter after having received a series of user complaints.

We thought it would be a good idea to present you a different perspective on the lawsuits Microsoft is involved in. Did you know that in the past three years, the tech giant has filed four lawsuits against the US government, challenging law-enforcement efforts to search customer data on its servers?

Microsoft has already been criticized by users for its privacy policy and has even been accused of spying on its customers. However, little do users know about Microsoft’s commitment to protect their private data.

The tech giant often receives federal demands for customer information, such as the content of emails, that include strict orders stopping the company from informing the customers the government looked at their data. Microsoft doesn’t like that and has long contested such government orders.

The Redmont giant’s goal is to actually find some middle ground when it comes to using private user information. On the one hand, law enforcement agencies criticize Microsoft’s stance and accuse the company of hampering criminal investigations. On the other hand, activists have taken Microsoft’s side, worried about government’s intrusion into its citizen’s lives.

Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer Brad Smith recently revealed that he has the support of the whole company about these lawsuits, explaining that these indefinite gag orders breach Microsoft’s First Amendment right to inform customers about searches of their files. He also added that secret searches violate the Fourth Amendment, which require the government to inform people when their property is being searched or seized.

These suits have all involved situations where we’ve felt that the company’s business and the interests of our customers were at stake around security and privacy. They also involved important issues of principle, including the right of people to know what the government is doing in certain circumstances.

Microsoft is willing to cooperate with the government and allow law enforcement agencies to access user information if necessary. The tech giant provided the government with vital information when requested to do so following the Paris attacks from last November, as “there are days when people’s lives are at stake. And on those days it is our job to work hard to serve the public in this broad way.”

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