Cybersecurity » Tech Firms Push Back On Gov’t Gag Orders, Subpoenas

Tech Firms Push Back On Gov’t Gag Orders, Subpoenas

October 5, 2016

The government too frequently turns to subpoenas and gag orders when asking technology companies for information, say Silicon Valley firms. In April Microsoft sued the Justice Department for routinely relying on gag orders, saying it violated the Fourth Amendment rights of its customers, and the company’s First Amendment rights to speak to its customers. In the first half of the year Open Whisper Systems, the firm that created encryption app Signal, received a subpoena associated with a grand jury investigation in Virginia. The subpoena came with a court order that Open Whisper Systems not tell anyone about the information request for one year. Part of that gag order was lifted after the American Civil Liberties Union challenged it in court, but the company was still not allowed to tell specific account holders about the investigation. Civil liberties lawyers say the information the government sought in that subpoena – including web browsing histories and data stored in the tracking “cookies” of the web browsers attached to those accounts – goes beyond what is typical. “The Justice Department is pushing the envelope,” Jennifer Granick, director of Civil Liberties at the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society, told the New York Times.

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