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Microsoft President Brad Smith. Photo: AP

Microsoft said Monday it will drop a lawsuit against the federal government after the Justice Department agreed to limit its use of "gag orders" to prevent Internet service providers from notifying customers that the government has accessed their information.

Under the changes, the government will end the use of indefinite gag orders and limit its secrecy demands to the most serious of cases. Microsoft had filed suit back in April 2016.

What's next: Both Microsoft and outside groups called on the Senate to pass a bill, which has already unanimously passed the House, that would limit gag orders to 180 days.

Microsoft President and chief legal officer Brad Smith called the agreement an "unequivocal win for our customers."

""The binding policy issued today by the Deputy U.S. Attorney General should diminish the number of orders that have a secrecy order attached, end the practice of indefinite secrecy orders, and make sure that every application for a secrecy order is carefully and specifically tailored to the facts in the case," Smith said in a blog post. "This is an important step for both privacy and free expression."

The Center for Democracy and Technology, which had filed a brief in the case, praised the agreement as "an important improvement."

"It allows Americans to learn when they are being investigated by the government and — if that investigation is improper — take action to protect their privacy," CDT policy VP Chris Calabrese told Axios.

However, Calabrese cautioned that "the guidance is not a substitute for statutory reform" and urged Congress to take action.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Scoop: Jake Sullivan discussed Saudi-Israel normalization with MBS

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg and Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan raised normalization with Israel during his recent meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, three U.S. and Arab sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: Saudi Arabia would be the biggest regional player to sign onto the "Abraham Accords" peace agreement with Israel, and such a major breakthrough would likely convince other Arab and Muslim countries to follow suit.

Tech's leaky world

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Tech companies are learning what everyone in Washington already knows: Leaks of confidential info are inevitable, and "plumbing" operations to close them rarely work.

Why it matters: Most tech firms talk up the power of transparency but prefer to keep details of their operations secret from competitors and the public. Researchers, regulators and the media are increasingly relying on information provided by dissident employees and whistleblowers to see inside companies' workings.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

First look: Harris wants more union membership in fed workforce

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at a virtual town hall with Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) on Oct. 14. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh will today announce new guidelines to encourage federal workers to join unions, according to a White House official.

Why it matters: The Biden administration wants to bolster the collective bargaining power of workers across the country – and they are starting at home, with changes in the federal workforce.