Bill Gates: Secret government data requests should be curbed

The Microsoft co-founder calls for balance when using gag orders to prevent users from knowing about US government requests to access their data.

Katie Collins Senior European Correspondent
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
Katie Collins

Bill Gates supports Microsoft, which is suing the US government.

Bloomberg/Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates on Monday expressed his support for the company's wish to inform customers about government requests for their data.

Despite not being an "absolutist," Gates said gag orders should not automatically be imposed when federal agencies seek access to emails and documents. Instead, privacy advocates and law enforcement should collaborate to strike "the perfect balance," Reuters reports him saying at an event hosted by the publication in Washington.

"There probably are some cases where [the government] should be able to go in covertly and get information about a company's email," he said, adding that Microsoft believes these should be "extraordinary."

Microsoft filed a lawsuit in federal court last week arguing that gag orders stopping it from informing customers about government requests violate the US constitution.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.