What would you think if the federal government goons claimed the authority to force your bank to provide them with a key to your safe deposit box so that they could open it and rifle through your papers and possessions any time they liked without your knowledge?
You would want your bank to say no to the goons, wouldn’t you? You would want your bank to tell you about what the goons were after so that you could object and fight the goons yourself, wouldn’t you? But suppose the goons wouldn’t take no for an answer and threatened to punish your bank if it told you what was going on?
I think you would want your bank to fight those goons. And that is exactly what technology companies like Apple and Microsoft are doing today – fighting the goons over their claims of authority to violate your constitutional rights.
Apple fought the FBI when its goons insisted that the company was required by law to produce a backdoor to encryption software on customers’ i-phones. And now Microsoft is suing the government goons who claim authority to force the company to violate your privacy by turning over its customers’ email and online files for examination by the goons without your knowledge.
Yes, the federal goons claim the authority to violate your individual privacy rights – to look at your emails, photos, financial records and personal possessions – documents that you store online with providers like Microsoft. And Microsoft is saying no. Microsoft is saying that the goons are attempting to abuse whatever authority they have under the law – like insisting that Microsoft be prohibited forever from notifying its customers about what is going on. Those "non-disclosure" orders violate its constitutional right to free speech, as well as its customers' protection against unreasonable searches.
"We appreciate that there are times when secrecy around a government warrant is needed," Microsoft Corp. President Brad Smith said in a statement. "But based on the many secrecy orders we have received, we question whether these orders are grounded in specific facts that truly demand secrecy. To the contrary, it appears that the issuance of secrecy orders has become too routine."
“It’s very important for businesses to know when the government is accessing their file room, whether the file room is down the hall or in the cloud," Smith continued, noting that consumers and privacy groups have expressed concern about the issue. “People shouldn’t lose their rights simply because technology is moving to the cloud.”
Never-mind insists Bill Fitzpatrick, president of the National District Attorney’s Association. He claims that Microsoft’s position is “obscene.” “I don’t know what’s in the water over there at Microsoft or Apple corporate headquarters, but this is ridiculous,” he said. “If I’m tracking a serial sex offender, child pornographer or a human-trafficking ring, I can’t tip these people off.”
I suppose he thinks his goons have the authority to break into your home without your knowledge too if they think you might be a sex offender. That’s their attitude – violate constitutional rights and ask questions about it later.
But Microsoft, to its credit, is finally fed up with and fighting the federal goons.