According to Microsoft, they’ve beat the FBI at their own game. A letter sent to the company recently asked for information on an enterprise client, which Microsoft fought in court. Without having actually won a verdict, Microsoft says the FBI withdrew their request.
In late 2013, the FBI sent a National Security Letter (NSL) to Microsoft, which asked for data pertaining to the unnamed enterprise account. The NSL came with a gag order, which is the normal course of action for the FBI to ensure a company doesn’t inadvertently tip the customer off. The gag order may have been the FBI’s undoing, though.
According to Microsoft, they challenged the gag order in court, claiming it violated free speech rights. In a blog post, Microsoft’s general counsel Brad Smith said “We concluded that the nondisclosure provision was unlawful and violated our Constitutional right to free expression. It did so by hindering our practice of notifying enterprise customers when we receive legal orders related to their data.”
Though the NSL only asked for basic account info, Microsoft has committed to “notifying business and government customers if we receive legal orders related to their data”. In another blog post form last year, Smith laid down the company’s intentions moving forward. “Where a gag order attempts to prohibit us from doing this, we will challenge it in court” he said. It’s not known if this is the first time they’ve successfully fought a gag order, but it may be the last time they have to.