For those who are unaware, an NSL comes with a ‘gagging order’, meaning that Microsoft could not reveal the existence of the letter to the customer at hand. However, Microsoft does have some pretty strong policies guarding customer data, emphasised in winning top marks at the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s ‘Who Has Your Back’ report.
“EFF believes that National Security Letters (NSLs) – secretive FBI orders for user data accompanied by a gag provision – are a violation of the Constitution,” the EFF stated. “We think it is vital that companies are as forthcoming as legally allowable about these national security requests to help shed light on government abuses of contested surveillance powers.” they added.
The letter has been withdrawn prior to Microsoft filing a challenge to the order in Seattle’s Federal Court. However, this is not a win for Microsoft and even though the FBI will not comment or confirm the accusations, the secret service will still get the information through lawful means rather than just ‘asking nicely’ for it.
Furthermore, by backing off, the FBI has also avoided a high-profile court case at a rather inconvenient time. Having an open court ‘war’ with a well-resourced company such as Microsoft would have consumed both time and resources from both parties and could have also ended with Microsoft winning the ‘battle’, having the FBI to blame by using unconstitutional methods of acquiring private customer information.
Thank you Forbes for providing us with this information