Apple, Google, and Mozilla are among a number of companies and organizations that are officially supporting Microsoft’s lawsuit against the U.S. government over gag orders.
This week several major tech companies filed an amicus brief in support of Microsoft, with signatories making up a diverse set of industry participants that included the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Washington Post, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Fox News. Reuters reports that five former officials from the FBI and Justice Department have also filed briefs in support of Microsoft.
Microsoft filed its suit against the Department of Justice in April over the government’s practice of issuing gag orders on firms when authorities are seeking data on those firms’ customers. The gag orders prevent companies, including Microsoft, from informing a customer that the government is seeking their data, and Microsoft claims this is in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
The Justice Department had argued that this confidentiality was important to its investigations but it has not commented on this week’s amicus brief.
Mozilla said it has joined the amicus brief as it shares the values of transparency that are at the basis of this suit. Denelle Dixon-Thayer, Mozilla’s chief legal and business officer, stated that Mozilla has never received any gag orders of this kind but stands against them. In its annual transparency report in May, Mozilla said it would fight these gag orders and has now made good on the promise.
“Worse yet, the government often issues indefinite orders that prevent companies from notifying users even years later, long after everyone would agree the gag order is no longer needed,” she said. “These actions needlessly sacrifice transparency without justification. That’s foolish and unacceptable.”
Microsoft asserts that it has received 2,600 of these gag orders in the last 18 months alone. The court orders are issued under the Electronics Communications Act, which Microsoft asserted in its court filings has been increasingly relied on by the government to carry out criminal investigations.