U.S. DOJ Faces Lawsuit Demanding Disclosure of The Use of Secret Court Orders Against Tech Companies
Apr 20, 2016 05:04 AM EDT
The U.S. Department of Justice is facing a lawsuit by a digital rights group over secretive court orders used against tech companies. The lawsuit stated that the order issued by a secret court allows government agencies to collect phone records.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) claims that the DOJ uses the secret court orders to force tech companies to provide information on its devices. The court order was issued by the secretive U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), allowing the National Security Agency (NSA) to obtain device records legally from tech companies.
Reuters reported that the order posted on Tuesday on a website, operated by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, was issued on December 31, 2015. It was signed by FISC Chief Judge Thomas Hogan. The order stated how the court decided that the surveillance application met the requirements of the USA Freedom Act which was signed by President Barack Obama last year. The surveillance application was submitted by the NSA.
The lawsuit filed by the EFF on the other hand, demanded that the court shed light on whether the government has ever used secret court orders to demand decrypted data of private information from tech companies. The lawsuit said that the DOJ must disclose if a secret court order has ever been used against third parties to force them to provide technical assistance to carry out the practice of surveillance.
Furthermore, EFF explained that it has filed its Freedom of Information requests in October and in March when the government was pressuring tech companies to provide decrypted data to its users' devices to assist investigations. The encryption debate started when a court order required Apple to create a backdoor to access a locked iPhone owned by one of the San Bernardino shooter.
The FISC was formed in the 1970s, long before the encryption debate surfaced. It has been given the power to issue such order to obtain information. The agency had been operating mostly secretly and had granted most of the government request to carry out surveillance. It wasn't until June 2015 that the government decided that "significant" decisions made by the FISC to be declassified under the USA FREEDOM Act, as noted by Consumerist.
"Congress wanted to bring an end to secret surveillance law, so it required that all significant FISC opinions be declassified and released. Our lawsuit seeks to hold DOJ accountable to the law," said EFF's Mark Rumold.
The EFF filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Justice Department, demanding it to reveal information on secret orders. The digital right group required the transparency whether secret court orders had been used to force tech companies hand over encrypted data.