According to Ars Technica, Microsoft is in court fighting for the right to tell one of its customers that the federal government requested data on its cloud services.
Most of the substantive filings for the case are sealed. What is known about the case is that the government’s request for the data arrived with an order prohibiting Microsoft from notifying its customer about it. Viewing the request as inappropriate, Microsoft challenged it in September 2018.
The tech company also views the data request as too vague, especially since its customer in question has thousands of employees: “Based on the limited information available to us in this case, we feel the secrecy order was too broadly drawn and is inconsistent with the U.S. government’s policy that secrecy orders be narrowly tailored,” Dev Stahlkopf, Microsoft’s general counsel, wrote in a statement.
Microsoft says that the government should identify someone from its customer company “who can be notified without jeopardizing the investigation.” A judge rejected the tech company’s request, and the secrecy requirement remains in place.
What Decision Makers Should Know About This Case
Today, tech companies are finding themselves in similar positions as Microsoft. In fact, the New York Times recently reported that the F.B.I. has been obtaining data from multiple tech companies, which “have raised privacy concerns for years.” Data requests vary from usernames, locations, IP addresses and records of purchases, and often come with a gag order. Industry experts and companies are questioning the government’s authority and intent behind these requests.
As a result, tech companies fight the requests. In fact, this isn’t Microsoft’s first rodeo in court, either. In 2014, it was able to ward off an FBI secrecy order pertaining to a customer of Office 365. In 2016, it sued the Department of Justice over “repeated use of over-broad secrecy orders;” the government settled by “agreeing to limit its use of gag orders,” Ars Technica says.
The hearing for Microsoft’s current case with the federal government is scheduled for Oct. 22 of this year.