Microsoft lawsuit against indefinite gag orders can proceed

A federal judge has ruled that Microsoft can sue the US to tell customers about searches

A Microsoft lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice over indefinite gag orders attached to search warrants can proceed, following a federal judge’s ruling on Thursday.

The tech titan sued last year to end the government’s practice of indefinitely blocking it from informing customers of search warrants for their information. Microsoft alleged that such orders violate its First Amendment frees speech rights and the Fourth Amendment privacy rights of its users.

The Justice Department argued that Microsoft couldn’t bring either of the claims in a motion argued in front of the judge two weeks ago.

Judge James Robart from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington said Microsoft’s First Amendment claims could proceed, but its Fourth Amendment claims could not.

Microsoft said that it was pleased with the ruling. The DOJ did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We’re pleased this ruling enables our case to move forward toward a reasonable solution that works for law enforcement and ensures secrecy is used only when necessary,” Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said in an emailed statement.

At issue in the case are gag orders allowed by a section of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which allows the government to indefinitely prohibit a cloud vendor like Microsoft from telling one of its users about a search warrant for their digital information.

Robart said Microsoft had standing to continue with its argument that the gag orders are an unconstitutional prohibition on its speech. However, because of legal precedent, Microsoft could not assert a Fourth Amendment claim on behalf of its users, the judge said. That decision presents a conundrum, as Robart noted in his opinion.

“As Microsoft alleges, the indefinite nondisclosure orders allowed under [the law] mean that some customers may never know that the government has obtained information in which those customers have a reasonable expectation of privacy,” he wrote.

It’s been a busy month for Robart. He issued a restraining order blocking parts of President Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigration from seven countries with large Muslim populations.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Microsoft

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Blair Hanley Frank

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?