It's being reported today that Microsoft has sued the U.S. government for the right to tell its customers when a federal agency is looking at their emails, the latest in a series of clashes over privacy between the technology industry and Washington. By filing the suit, Microsoft is taking a more prominent role in that battle, dominated by Apple in recent months due to the government's efforts to get the company to write software to unlock an iPhone used by one of the shooters in a December massacre in San Bernardino, California.
Apple, backed by big technology companies including Microsoft, had complained that cooperating would turn businesses into arms of the state. "Just as Apple was the company in the last case and we stood with Apple, we expect other tech companies to stand with us," Microsoft's Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said in a phone interview after the suit was filed.
The lawsuit, filed on Thursday in federal court in Seattle, argues that the government is violating the U.S. Constitution by preventing Microsoft from notifying thousands of customers about government requests for their emails and other documents.
The government's actions contravene the Fourth Amendment, which establishes the right for people and businesses to know if the government searches or seizes their property, the suit argues, and Microsoft's First Amendment right to free speech.
The Department of Justice is reviewing the filing, spokeswoman Emily Pierce said.
Microsoft's suit focuses on the storage of data on remote servers, rather than locally on people's computers, which Microsoft says has provided a new opening for the government to access electronic data. For more on this report, see the full Reuters Report here.
Earlier today Reuters reported that Apple and the FBI will return to Congress next week to testify before lawmakers about their heated disagreement over law enforcement access to encrypted devices, a congressional committee announced on Thursday.
Apple's general counsel, Bruce Sewell, and Amy Hess, executive assistant director for science and technology at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, will testify on separate panels before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Tuesday, in addition to other law enforcement officials and technology experts.
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