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Business imperatives drove Microsoft to sue U.S. government

Gregg Keizer | April 18, 2016
Without legal clarification on data demands and gag orders, companies may steer clear of the cloud, says legal expert.

"Businesses want a more certain legal environment," said Carroll. "Having the secrecy [of the gag orders] as a standard part of data requests is not going to work for them."

By taking the government to court, Microsoft is trying to clarify that "legal environment" for its customers, said Carroll.

While Carroll and other legal experts who spoke to Computerworld declined to predict the outcome of Microsoft's lawsuit, they all agreed that the company forced the issue to roll back the habitual use of gag orders.

"Microsoft is signaling that there's a problem that needs fixing," said Carrol. "The signal is to both Justice and Congress."

"In the cloud environment, where data is stored with a third party, obviously Microsoft gets notice when the warrant is served, but that's not good enough," echoed James Dempsey, executive director of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology at the University of California Berkeley School of Law. "Constitutionally, the person whose privacy has been infringed deserves to see the notice. [But the law] is out of sync with how people use cloud services today."

Not surprisingly, that was a large part of Microsoft's argument.

"The transition to the cloud does not alter the fundamental constitutional requirement that the government must -- with few exceptions -- give notice when it searches and seizes the private information or communications of individuals or businesses," Microsoft's complaint stated. "People do not give up their rights when they move their private information from physical storage to the cloud."


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