Business imperatives drove Microsoft to sue U.S. government

Without legal clarification on data demands and gag orders, companies may steer clear of the cloud, says legal expert

“The government’s secrecy orders forbid cloud service providers from letting businesses know that the government has obtained their data,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft’s chief legal officer, in a post to a company blog yesterday. “Not surprisingly, business customers regularly convey to us their strong desire to know when the government is obtaining their data.

Smith in his post, and Microsoft in the complaint filed with a Seattle federal court, alleged that the government has been routinely putting gag orders on data demands.

Uncertainty about who accesses data, and when, generates what Carroll called “business blowback,” and hesitancy to shift to the cloud.

“Businesses want a more certain legal environment,” said Carroll. ” By taking the government to court, Microsoft is trying to clarify that “legal environment” for its customers, said Carroll.

Not surprisingly, that was a large part of Microsoft’s argument.