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DOJ says Microsoft cannot sue to protect data privacy

The U.S. Department of Justice requested the U.S. District Court,Western District of Washington at Seattle to dismiss Microsoft Corp.'s case against it over customer data searches,claiming the agency is allowed by federal law to access electronic communicationwithout presenting a warrant.

Microsoft suedthe DOJ in April saying that government requests for customer data allegedly violatesthe First Amendment, which allows the company to discuss with customers how thegovernment conducts investigations, and the Fourth Amendment that allows peopleand businesses to know if any government entity searches or seizes their property.

Microsoft said it received 5,624 federal demands for customerinformation or data between September 2014 and March 2016. Additionally, 2,576 ofthe orders had secrecy orders with the demands that barred the company from informingthe affected customers. Further, 1,752 of the secrecy orders contained no time limit,meaning that Microsoft could forever be barred from telling the affected customerabout the government's intrusion.

The DOJ contended that it is legal under federal law to obtainelectronic communications without a warrant, or even disclosure of a warrant, ifan investigation or an individual would be imperiled as a consequence. The DOJ alsoclaimed that Microsoft lacks the authority to sue the government over whether itsusers' constitutional rights are being violated through unlawful search and seizure.Moreover, in a July 22 motion to dismiss the case, the DOJ argued that Microsoft"has not pleaded a concrete challenge based on a specific instance," whichis a requirement for such a suit to go ahead.

Microsoft recently wonan appeal overturning an order to produce emails stored in servers outside the U.S.The Circuit Judge Susan Carney agreed with Microsoft's argument, writing that "Congressdid not intend the SCA's warrant provisions to apply extraterritorially." Carneyadded that since Microsoft had otherwise complied with the warrant, the companyis no longer obligated to produce materials to the government.