Microsoft's battle against the US government's secretive data demands is now supported by over 80 US tech giants, businesses and privacy groups. Microsoft filed a lawsuit against the US Justice Department in April over the government's use of gag orders. Now over 80 signatories have rallied behind Microsoft's cause, in efforts to boost transparency.

Among those backing Microsoft are tech giants such as Apple Inc, Alphabet Inc's Google, Amazon; media giants like the Washington Post, Fox News, the National Newspaper Association; businesses groups such as the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, Delta Air Lines Inc, Eli Lilly and Co, BP America, and privacy groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

In addition, five former law enforcement staffers who served the FBI or the Justice Department have submitted a brief, supporting Microsoft's cause, Reuters reported.

Apple and Twitter, both of whom submitted a brief supporting Microsoft confirmed that the companies had received numerous government requests to hand over customer data. While Apple said that the firm had received around 590 "unlimited or indefinite duration" gag orders in 2016 alone, Twitter said it was compelled to turn over customer data 6,432 times, over 50% of which were accompanied by a gag order, almost half of which in turn were gag orders for an indefinite period of time.

"The standard for an unlimited gag order is so low that it can be met in almost every case. Once entered, the gag order will tend to stay in place," Twitter's brief stated. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which also filed a brief on 2 September said the government "is violating the US constitution" when users are not notified that their private communications and more stored by internet providers, have been accessed.

Microsoft’s battle against secret data demands gets Apple, Google, Twitter and more as allies
Five former law enforcement staffers who served the FBI or the Justice Department have also submitted a brief, supporting Microsoft’s cause iStock

"EFF is supporting Microsoft in its lawsuit challenging portions of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) that allow the Department of Justice (DOJ) to serve a warrant on the company to get access to customers' emails and other information stored on remote servers — all without telling users their data is being searched or seized," the organisation said.

Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith told ZDNet: "We're grateful for the strong support from over 80 signatories that reflect so many diverse views. After all, it's not every day that Fox News and the ACLU are on the same side of an issue. We believe the constitutional rights at stake in this case are of fundamental importance, and people should know when the government accesses their emails unless secrecy is truly needed."