Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Microsoft sues to tell you when the government seizes your data

Another day, another vector in the information privacy wars. Microsoft is suing the government over the constitutionality of the gag order in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which prevents the company from disclosing to its users when the government has read their email or other cloud-based data. Microsoft argues that the law is too broad and overused.

From the complaint:

Over the past 18 months, federal courts have issued nearly 2,600 secrecy orders silencing Microsoft from speaking about warrants and other legal process seeking Microsoft customers’ data; of those, more than two-thirds contained no fixed end date. (In fact, of the twenty-five secrecy orders issued to Microsoft by judges in this District, none contained a time limit.) These twin developments–the increase in government demands for online data and the simultaneous increase in secrecy–have combined to undermine confidence in the privacy of the cloud and have impaired Microsoft’s right to be transparent with its customers, a right guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Tech companies have often circumvented the letter of the law in these cases via the use of warrant canaries, but once they’ve become, well, an ex-canary, there’s basically no more information to be gained. This is a serious issue for data privacy and security, and kudos to Microsoft for taking it on.

—Linked by Dan Moren

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