The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wants to team up with Microsoft in a lawsuit against the Justice Department in an attempt to curb the number of gag orders attached to investigations.

The ACLU recently filed a motion demanding a Seattle court to let it take part in the legal clash between Microsoft and the Justice Department.

Secrecy orders stop tech companies from informing their clients when the government snatches their data during inquiries.

Microsoft took the Justice Department to court, challenging the latter's authority to use secret orders on users' data. According to the company, from the 5,000 federal demands from the past 18 months, over half were paired with a gag order. To be more specific, Microsoft got 2,576 requests for customer data doubled by a secrecy order between September 2014 and March 2016.

Normally, tech companies inform their customers when their data is used in legal proceedings, but the transparency is shut down when gag orders are involved. Microsoft's complaint targets the fact that the Justice Department uses the practice for more and more run-of-the-mill criminal cases. Gag orders were traditionally used on sensitive cases such as leaks, tip-offs or destruction of data in investigations regarding national security.

"The ACLU has an acute interest ... in receiving notice from the government when the government obtains its communications from Microsoft," reads the motion.

The interest is mainly based on the fact that ACLU, including other clients of Microsoft, stores sensitive information on the company's servers. The ACLU points out that the case also has implications in the Fourth Amendment, which guards citizens against abusive and unreasonable searches of the government.

According to the civil rights non-profit organization, the government should inform individuals before searching and seizing their data. To simplify, the ACLU claims that the practice is nothing short of "unconstitutional."

The organization points out that one of the fundamental Constitutional rights is that people should receive a notification when the government looks into their data.

"The government has managed to circumvent this critical protection ... but Microsoft's lawsuit offers the courts an opportunity to correct course," undelines senior staff attorney with the ACLU, Alex Abdo.

Microsoft affirms that the support it gets from ACLU and other organizations is welcome. The company notes that there is a growing concern in the legal, business and tech industry about secrecy replacing transparency.

The Justice Department refrained from making any official comment on the situation.

ⓒ 2021 TECHTIMES.com All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.