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Technology / Cybersecurity

Apple, Google and Amazon support Microsoft in US gag order fight

Technology giant Microsoft has received strong backing in its legal battle against the US Department of Justice (DoJ) over customer data privacy.

Microsoft’s lawsuit has been supported by technology, media, pharmaceutical companies and other major corporate lobbying groups, as they filed legal briefs last week.

The lawsuit challenges a rule that prevents companies from informing their customers about sharing of data with the government.

The deadline for filing friend-of-the-court briefs by nonparticipants in the case was 2 September.

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The filings indicate extensive support for Microsoft and the technology industry in the lawsuit against the DoJ over digital privacy and surveillance, Reuters reported.

Microsoft has found support from the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, Delta Air Lines, Eli Lilly and, BP America, the Washington Post, Fox News, the National Newspaper Association, Apple, Alphabet’s Google, Amazon, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and many others.

In a lawsuit filed in Seattle federal court in April, Microsoft argued that a law enabling the government authorities to seize computer data located on third-party computers is unconstitutional.

The department argues that Microsoft has “no standing” to file the lawsuit and the public has a "compelling interest in keeping criminal investigations confidential.”

Further, it contends that procedural safeguards also protect constitutional rights, the publication reported.

Microsoft said that the government is breaching the Fourth Amendment, which gives a right for people and businesses to know if the government searches or seizes their property.

In the lawsuit, the company said that it had received 2,600 federal court orders within the past 18 months, preventing it from telling its customers that their data was provided to authorities conducting criminal investigations.

The suit pertains to the storage of data on remote servers called as cloud computers.

Microsoft said that the government is stepping up its investigations against companies that offer cloud computing services under the 30-year-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA).

The lawsuit has also found support from briefs submitted by five former law enforcement officials who worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or Justice Department in Washington state.

 Technology firms have argued that the act is outdated, as it was drafted 30 years back when the Internet was not extensively for commercial purposes.
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CBR Staff Writer

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