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Hearing on Microsoft’s fight with justice department gets underway on Monday

Why it matters to you

This ongoing lawsuit could determine whether or not you have the right to be notified if the government requests access to data you have stored in the cloud.

The next chapter of Microsoft’s ongoing attempt to protect its users from overly secretive government surveillance will play out in a courtroom in Seattle on Monday morning. A federal judge is set to hear arguments from the United States Department of Justice on why the company’s requests for transparency should be denied.

Microsoft is disputing restrictions on its capacity to inform users when the government demands to be given access to data held in online storage, as per a report from Ars Technica. In April 2016, the company filed a suit against the Department of Justice, which was met with a motion to dismiss the following July.

The argument Microsoft is making compares the government’s current policies regarding data stored in the cloud, to those pertaining to data stored on private servers and paper copies. Authorities are forced to give notice when accessing either of the latter types of data, so the company is asserting that the same regulations should stand for cloud-based content.

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The complaint submitted by Microsoft last April argues that the government “has exploited the transition to cloud computing as a means of expanding its power to conduct secret investigations.” While the company acknowledges that it may be necessary to prevent a provider from notifying customers of the investigation in certain circumstances, its position is that current legislation is too broad, and should be updated in light of technological advances made in the decades since it was introduced.

In September 2016, a group of major technology companies filed an amicus brief in support of Microsoft’s legal action against the Department of Justice. Apple, Google, and Mozilla were among the organizations that pledged support for the lawsuit.

Oral arguments are set to get underway inside Seattle’s federal courthouse at 9 a.m. PT.