(Bloomberg) — The U.S. Justice Department is moving to scale back the use of orders forcing technology companies to turn over customer data without alerting users to the clandestine interception of their information.
Microsoft Corp., which sued the government over the practice last year, and other internet giants have argued that the future of cloud computing is in jeopardy if customers can't trust that their data will remain private. In response to new guidelines quietly issued last week by the Justice Department aimed at making "sneak-and-peek" searches more selective, Microsoft said Monday it plans to drop its lawsuit, which was backed by rivals including Alphabet Inc.'s Google and Amazon.com Inc.
The rapid growth of the cloud, in which customer data is stored by providers like Microsoft, Apple Inc., Amazon and Google in the technology companies' own servers, has increased the frequency of warrants seeking information.
Going forward, prosecutors must "conduct an individualized and meaningful assessment" of whether a secrecy order is needed, according to a memo issued by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. For internet users whose data is sought, the government shouldn't delay notifying them for more than a year, except "barring exceptional circumstances," according to the memo. Microsoft argued in court that too many data requests carry secrecy provisions, often of indefinite duration, that violate the company's free-speech
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