As the tech industry swings heavily towards cloud services, the government has been issuing a lot more data requests to cloud providers. Often, the requests for data are sealed, meaning that the cloud provider is legally forbidden from informing their client that their data has been taken by the government. While many companies simply turn the data over, one of the biggest players regularly fights these gag orders: Microsoft.
The company's most recent fight involves one of its big enterprise customers, whom they are prohibited from informing about a data request. The company has taken the gag order to court in an attempt to nullify the gag order, allowing them to inform their customer. Dev Stahlkopf, Microsoft's general counsel, wrote,
On Sept. 5, 2018, Microsoft challenged a secrecy order issued by a federal magistrate judge in Brooklyn, New York in connection with a federal national security investigation. 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.
Microsoft argued that their client, which has thousands of employees, must have at least one employee who could be informed of the data access without compromising the case. Unfortunately, the court rejected the argument and left the gag order in place. Stahlkopf said that he intends to appeal the ruling, stating that the company has a responsibility to its customers.
As a cloud services provider, Microsoft has an important role in forcing governments to go before impartial judges to justify their conduct. Our thorough review of law enforcement demands helps ensure that governments are respecting the rights of internet users around the world.
The "narrowly tailored" orders that are referenced are care of a previous case that Microsoft waged against the Department of Justice in 2016, which was settled in 2017. The settlement included the limiting of scope for gag orders. They also famously fended off an FBI gag order in 2014 placed on an Office 365 request.