Motley Crew Of Organizations Join Forces, Fight Govt’s Mass Collection Of Personal Data


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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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Some of the world’s biggest companies and organizations joined forces with Microsoft to fend off the U.S. government’s habitual practice of demanding access to customers’ personal information.

Microsoft filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in April, arguing it is unconstitutional to seize computer data from third parties and subsequently issue gag orders so companies cannot notify customers.

Now a motley crew of institutions, organizations, and businesses — like Apple, Google, Delta Air Lines, Mozilla, The Washington Post, Fox News, the American Civil Liberties Union, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — have joined the cause by signing and submitting an amicus brief.

Five former law enforcement officials with the FBI and DOJ also filed a brief advocating for Microsoft, according to Reuters. (RELATED: Activists Suspect Baltimore Police Illegally Use Cellphone Trackers)

Microsoft was given 2,600 federal court orders for personal information within an 18-month period, and was legally unable to inform customers, according to the lawsuit. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986, which many tech experts contend is antiquated, allows officials to forbid companies from telling customers when their data is sought.

The diverse group argues the DOJ’s actions are a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment, which states the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated …”

“Transparency is the core pillar for everything we do at Mozilla,” Denelle Dixon-Thayer, the company’s chief legal and business officer, wrote in an official blog post.

“And transparency — or more appropriately the lack there of — is why we care about this case. When requesting user data, these gag orders are sometimes issued without the government demonstrating why the gag order is necessary,” Dixon-Thayer continued.

The DOJ asserts the American public has a “compelling interest in keeping criminal investigations confidential,” Reuters reports.

Federal prosecutors successfully silenced companies like Facebook and Google in July after a judge originally refused to grant law enforcement the gag orders.

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