Microsoft filed a lawsuit yesterday against the U.S. government over the right to tell its customers when authorities access their data. According to the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court in Seattle, “customers have a right to know when the government obtains a warrant to read their emails” and “Microsoft has a right to tell them.”
The problem, according to Microsoft, centers on the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which allows the government to request access to a customer’s records while also forcing companies such as Microsoft to keep the customer in the dark. All the government has to show to secretly access this information is a “reason to believe” that disclosure could hinder an investigation. And nothing in the ECPA requires that this “reason to believe” be based on “specific facts of a particular investigation.” What’s more, the statute has no time limit on how long consumers can be kept in the dark. For these reasons, Microsoft says the ECPA is unconstitutional under both the First and Fourth amendments.
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