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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

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas convicted of campaign finance crimes

Lev Parnas, a former associate of then-President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida businessman Lev Parnas was convicted Friday on charges of conspiracy to make foreign contributions to political campaigns, according to multiple outlets.

Why it matters: Prosecutors said Parnas, then an associate of former President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, funneled over $150,000 from a Russian businessman into U.S. campaigns as part of an effort to land licenses in the U.S.'s legal cannabis industry.

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenges to Texas abortion law

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases challenging Texas' abortion law, which bans the procedure as soon as six weeks into pregnancy, but left the law in place in the meantime.

Why it matters: The court is moving extraordinarily fast on the Texas cases, compressing into just a few days a process that normally takes months. And that schedule means the court will take up Texas' ban a month before it hears another major abortion case — a challenge to Mississippi's own 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks.

Officials warn 5 key tech sectors will determine whether China overtakes U.S.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.S. intelligence officials responsible for protecting advanced technologies have narrowed their focus to five key sectors: artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, semiconductors and autonomous systems.

Why it matters: China and Russia are employing a variety of legal and illegal methods to undermine and overtake U.S. dominance in these critical industries, officials warned in a new paper. Their success will determine "whether America remains the world’s leading superpower or is eclipsed by strategic competitors."