Microsoft filed a lawsuit against the United States government, particularly the Justice Department, over what it calls "unconstitutional" gag orders, compelling it to remain silent and not inform the affected customers that their cloud data has been accessed as part of an investigation.
The company filed the suit on April 14 in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington.
"Microsoft brings this case because its customers have a right to know when the government obtains a warrant to read their emails, and because Microsoft has a right to tell them," reads a part of the complaint.
This lawsuit aims to shoot down Section 2705 (b) of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act that is used by the United States government to force companies in turning over their customers' data, "their email content or other private information," but gags them to inform customers that their cloud data has been inspected by authorities.
"This statute violates ... the Fourth Amendment, which affords people and businesses the right to know if the government searches or seizes their property," says Microsoft.
It also adds that this legal mechanism breaches the First Amendment, "which enshrines Microsoft's rights to talk to its customers and discuss how the government conducts its investigations."
In a blog post, Brad Smith, Microsoft's president and chief legal officer, shares that in the past 18 months, the government has required that the company should maintain the secrecy about 2,576 legal demands.
Smith goes on to say that what's even more surprising is that 68 percent of the total secrecy orders (which is equivalent to 1,752), have "no fixed end date at all."
"This means that we effectively are prohibited forever from telling our customers that the government has obtained their data," says Smith.
He also said in an interview with Bloomberg that it is vital for businesses, such as Microsoft, to know when the government accesses their "file room," whether it is located in the cloud or down the hall.
He said people must not lose their rights "simply because technology is moving to the cloud."
The Justice Department is presently reviewing Microsoft's filing, according to spokeswoman Emily Pierce.
This battle between Microsoft and the government comes hot on the heels of a high-profile face-off between the Federal Bureau of Investigation over iPhone encryption.