Google, Amazon.com Inc. and other tech leaders rallied behind Microsoft Corp. in its battle to stop the U.S. government from conducting so-called sneak-and-peak searches of customers’ e-mails.
Microsoft and its supporters argue the very future of mobile and cloud computing is at stake if customers can’t trust that their data will remain private. Delta Air Lines Inc. and BP America Inc. along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other businesses also asked to join the case in support of Microsoft, saying the benefits of cloud computing won’t be realized if privacy rights aren’t protected against government surveillance.
“But that is the inevitable consequence of allowing the government to continue obtaining gag orders of indefinite duration,” the companies said Friday in a court filing. Those companies, some of which are Microsoft clients, include Eli Lilly & Co. and GlaxoSmithKline Plc.
The Justice Department, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and their backers, defend the searches, saying they need digital tools to help fight increasingly sophisticated criminals and terrorists who are savvy at using technology to communicate and hide their tracks.
Fox News Network LLC, the Associated Press and 27 other news organizations asked in a separate filing Friday to join the case, saying restraints on disclosing warrants to e-mail users violate free-speech rights.
Microsoft has been fighting the U.S. over customer privacy and clandestine disclosures to investigators for more than two years. In July, the software maker persuaded an appeals court to overturn an order to hand over e-mails stored on servers in Ireland as part of a Manhattan drug prosecution.