back to article Microsoft sues US DoJ for right to squeal when Feds slurp your data

Microsoft has sued the US Department of Justice (DoJ) over the software giant's right to alert users when their personal data has been accessed by cops and Feds. Redmond chief legal counsel Brad Smith announced on Tuesday that Microsoft will seek [PDF] a legal declaration confirming that it should not be silenced by …

  1. energystar

    Civilian actions for civilian actors.

    "...yet it's becoming routine for the US government to issue orders that require email providers to keep these types of legal demands secret," Smith said.

    "We believe that with rare exceptions...".

    This is ANOTHER issue, and preemptively side with Brad S.

    Among many paths, what if what is negotiated is a Client Notification Deferral? what if those Deferral Policies or Regulations [which should be a little sub-set] are negotiated with Intelligence Community at the Table?

    Those cases which demand Non-Peremptory Secrecy should not be Law-Enforcement ones, ultimately.

  2. Ole Juul

    Hat's off

    Kudos to Microsoft. We need them to do this.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Hat's off

      Indeed this needs to be done. Yet, I'm wondering at the motives. For company disparagingly called "Slurp" around here, what do they get out of it? Some customer goodwill? So mis-direction at anger towards government (not that government doesn't deserve it)? So why not Google or FB? They're known data slurpers also that are on the list for commenter's anger over slurpage.

      I'm not a fanboi by any stretch, but the only company lately that I can think of that doesn't sell you out to advertisers or anyone else for money is Apple.

      Downvote away, but companies are charities so what is MS gaining from this?

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: Hat's off

        Irrespective of MS' business reasons for doing this, it is good they are as few others have the resources or influence in the US to consider this.

        I'm not American, nor do I live in the USA, but what happens in this case will be looked at world-wide and hopefully make other governments and their people think more carefully about what is reasonable to demand in the digital world.

      2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Re: Hat's off

        Slurp is getting some badly needed good will and is trying to position its cloud offerings being nothing more than an extension of one's hard drive with all the attendant legal implications. Slurp has made a big bet on the cloud and they need it to pay off. Customer nervousness about security, real and imaginary, can devastate the cloud especially if becomes apparent the ferals can peruse basically at will without the owner's knowledge.

        1. Ole Juul

          Re: Hat's off

          In this case I'm not questioning their motives. I have not doubt there's a high likelihood that it's not altruistic. In fact my personal view of MS is about as low as it can get, but that doesn't stop me from cheering when they do something actually good - for whatever reason.

      3. ultimate_noobie

        Re: Hat's off

        It's called "Positive Press." Between all the security issues and bad press of Windows 8/.1/+ they are looking at in-roads towards a more positive image with the business level consumers who've been their historic bread and butter. If company X gets notified, even once, that they're being snooped on by Big Brother, that's one more service MS will provide over whomever else. If they really mean it, they'll ignore the orders to stay quite on non-targeted requests (true slurps), cover the inevitable lawsuit with pocket change and get the court of Public Favor on their side, all while awaiting the courts decision. I cheer them for doing the right thing and hopefully, they won't cock this up since they are one of the few entities with the reserve of cash and lawyers to get this done.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Hat's off

      Microsoft representing the masses, the MS of the 90s is shuddering in its grave.

      Meanwhile, I've heard that cats and dogs are now having a love in and Beelzebub is offering cheap skiing holidays.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hat's off

      Kudos to Microsoft. We need them to do this.

      Really? Then why are they still actively intercepting Skype messages? As far as I can tell, they need user permission for that in Europe, but I'm certain I never gave that permission (as it has to be given explicitly under EU law).

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This confuses me being British, section 2703 states that a court must judge the actions to determine whether disclosure would cause an adverse result.

    Are the courts in America that corrupt that they would grant these without justification?

    If so then fair play to Microsoft for making this public gesture though I do wonder about their motives.

    1. Adam 52 Silver badge

      The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that courts can only make decisions on the evidence presented to them. Since only one side is represented (the whole point being not to tip off the person being snooped on) they don't get balanced evidence.

      English courts are the same, magistrates and judges effectively rubber stamp TV licensing, utility forced access, search warrants etc.

      Courts can, and do, pick holes in the argument but if the police have put a consistent case together then there is little the court can do.

      Not ideal but that's life. Awaiting lots of downvotes from people who live in a fantasy world.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Might 'endanger Physical Safety'

        @"Courts can, and do, pick holes in the argument "

        And the next warrant wouldn't have that hole. Really they refine the data and narrative they provide to obtain the warrant, and no counter data is provided to contradict any of it.

        And 2705(b)(1) is such a loophole.... it's easy to phrase the request so that no judge will refuse it.

        "oh target is a known violent person, we don't want to tell the target of the warrant because it might endanger life or physical safety of witnesses". You can safely assume Microsoft sees a lot of abuse of this clause. They should be allowed to reveal that abuse so its kept in check. Even if its to strip the name from the warrant.

        There should be no 'secret police' in a democracy. No policemen writing their own warrant approvals, targeting people who never get to see or challenge those warrants... no RIPA, no funny interpretations of old laws concealed from the voters and their elected representatives by a law breaking Executive Branch.

  4. Herby

    Possibly a way to do this...

    Charge the government a fee (like $10,000) to keep things secret. While law enforcement might have the $$$ to pay the fee on a one-time basis, a fishing expedition would get costly quickly.

    Many places have tight budgets, and need to beg legislators to get them approved. The cost for 100 records ought to spring up pretty quickly.

    1. Queasy Rider

      Re: a fishing expedition

      Yes, these are fishing expeditions, and by being conducted are absolutely no different from allowing secret search warrants to secretly search your home or premises, Stazi-like.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    When Feds slurp your data?

    "Microsoft wants to warn people when their cloud-hosted files and messages have been requested by law enforcement, but the biz is often hit by gag orders.

    Wouldn't it be simpler to host the keys on the client computer?

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