File - This Tuesday, April 12, 2016 file photo shows the Microsoft logo in Issy- les-Moulineaux, outside Paris, France. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
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Microsoft sued the U.S. government for demanding access to user emails or other online files in secret, saying that a provision of a 1986 law that authorities use for such undisclosed searches is totally unconstitutional.Microsoft says the U.S. Justice Department is abusing the decades-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which allows authorities to obtain court orders requiring it to turn over customer files stored on its servers, while in some cases prohibiting the company from notifying the customer. Microsoft says those "nondisclosure" orders violate its constitutional right to free speech, as well as its customers' protection against unreasonable searches.Microsoft argues the law sets a vague standard for granting secrecy around digital searches.Microsoft said that government demands under the ECPA law are increasing in number for a variety of investigations, including white-collar cases.In an interview, Smith said the company decided to sue the Justice Department after a case where authorities threatened to hold Microsoft in contempt when it sought to contest a particular secrecy order.
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