Mozilla today is joining a coalition of technology companies, including Apple, Lithium, and Twilio, in filing an amicus brief in support of Microsoft’s case against indiscriminate use of gag orders. Such orders prevent companies from notifying users about government requests for their data.
Transparency is the core pillar for everything we do at Mozilla. It is foundational to how we build our products, with an open code base that anybody can inspect, and is critical to our vision of an open, trusted, secure web that places users in control of their experience online. Our reform efforts in the areas of vulnerability disclosure and government surveillance are also centered on the transparency ideal.
And transparency – or more appropriately the lack thereof – is why we care about this case. When requesting user data, these gag orders are sometimes issued without the government demonstrating why the gag order is necessary. Worse yet, the government often issues indefinite orders that prevent companies from notifying users even years later, long after everyone would agree the gag order is no longer needed. These actions needlessly sacrifice transparency without justification. That’s foolish and unacceptable.
We have yet to receive a gag order that would prevent us from notifying a user about a request for data. Nonetheless, we believe it is wrong for the government to indefinitely delay a company from providing user notice. We said this when we released our transparency report in May, and we said then that we would take steps to enforce this belief. That is just what we’ve done today.