Michael Sussmann is a partner in the Privacy and Data Security Practice at Perkins Coie LLP, focusing on consumer privacy, computer and network intrusions, Internet- and technology-related investigations, surveillance and regulatory compliance and national security issues. Michael is a nationally recognized privacy lawyer who is often quoted in front-page New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal stories and has appeared on NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show and other media outlets. He has provided Congressional testimony and has been ranked as a Privacy and Data Security Expert in the Chambers Global and Chambers USA directories.
Michael’s practice focuses on all aspects of consumer privacy. He regularly conducts extensive corporate privacy reviews and has represented FORTUNE 10, 50 and 100 companies in FTC, Department of Justice and State Attorney General investigations of civil and criminal privacy violations. He investigates and takes legal action (including law enforcement referrals) regarding Internet crimes, manages technology-related litigation and responds to Congressional inquiries and investigations.
Michael is a former computer crime prosecutor and has assisted many of the world's biggest companies in their response to sophisticated network intrusions, including many intrusions that were believed to be state-sponsored. He provides a full range of counseling in this area concerning prevention, response, mitigation, SEC reporting, consumer breach notification, and the myriad legal risks and obligations that can flow from a network intrusion. For large intrusions, he manages various forensic analysis and security vendors as well as company remediation and training.
A large part of Michael’s practice is devoted to advising phone companies, email and wireless providers, social networks and app developers on privacy, security and all aspects of regulatory compliance. He has particular experience in surveillance issues in civil litigation and criminal prosecutions and in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (and its components, the Wiretap Act ("Title III"), the Stored Communications Act and the Pen/Trap Statutes), the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and National Security Letters. He also provides comprehensive counseling on identity theft, the CAN-SPAM Act, unlawful Internet harassment and related issues.
Michael’s national security portfolio includes counseling communications providers and others on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and other national security laws, government contracting, CFIUS review and other foreign-based investments in or threats to U.S. infrastructure and key industries, and corporate policies and training regarding proper handling of classified information.
For 12 years, prior to joining the firm, Michael held several positions within the U.S. Department of Justice. He was a Senior Counsel in the Computer Crime & Intellectual Property Section, where he investigated and prosecuted computer intrusions and other Internet related crimes, copyright and trademark violations involving software piracy and other digital rights, and economic espionage. He advised the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices on all aspects of electronic surveillance, privacy and the Fourth Amendment. He chaired the U.S. Delegation to the G-8 Subgroup on High-Tech Crime (over 30 multilateral meetings) which focused on cross-border cybercrime investigations and international legal and jurisdictional issues. Michael also led Department of Justice cybersecurity consultations with the European Union and negotiated bilateral cooperation with the Chinese government.
Michael was a contributing author to the Computer Crime & Intellectual Property Section's manuals on Prosecuting Computer Crimes (First Edition 2007), Searching and Seizing Computers and Obtaining Electronic Evidence in Criminal Investigations (Second Edition 2002) and Prosecuting Intellectual Property Crimes (Second Edition 2001).
At the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, Michael prosecuted white collar and violent crimes, conducted grand jury investigations and felony jury trials and represented the United States before the district court on motions, pleas and sentencings.
Michael also served as Special Assistant to the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, where he assisted in the supervision of 500+ criminal division lawyers and various matters in the 93 U.S. Attorneys' Offices. He conducted special grand jury investigations and pre-indictment review for fraud, money laundering and public corruption prosecutions, and he worked on legislative proposals. Michael also served as the Criminal Division liaison to the Intelligence Community, maintained a national security portfolio that included counter-terrorism and counter-espionage investigations, and worked on sensitive cases involving NAZI deportations.
Michael began his legal career at the New York law firm of Proskauer Rose LLP, working as an associate in its litigation department. While there, he served as co-counsel for federal and state trials, litigated copyright infringement cases, conducted pre-trial discovery and drafted motions as well as trial and appellate briefs.
Notable Media Mentions
Dragnet Nation, by Julia Angwin (2014)
Privacy Partner Michael Sussmann was quoted in investigative journalist’s book addressing the “quest for privacy, security and freedom in a world of relentless surveillance."
Federal News Radio, Federal Drive Show Blog (01.20.14)
Privacy Partner Michael Sussmann was interviewed on Federal News Radio about President Obama’s speech on surveillance reform and the road ahead.
Voice of America, "US Phone Companies Fight Possible Changes In Data Collection” (01.15.2014)
Privacy Partner Michael Sussmann was interviewed by Voice of America News about "a proposal to have the [NSA] transfer its vast records of phone calls to telecommunications companies.” Commenting on the privacy implications of such a change, he said "So an insurance company could issue a subpoena. There could be a court order in a divorce case. For all the other reasons that people would want phone company records, there are that many more records for them to request."
Associated Press, "Phone companies balk at proposed data collection changes” (01.14.2014)
Privacy Partner Michael Sussmann was quoted in a syndicated story (PBS NewsHour, NY Post) regarding the proposal to shift the storage of phone records from the NSA to phone companies. “It would be enormously costly and burdensome to set up and implement. However you change the system, they would have to handle a greater set of data than they collected before. And more people—of all sorts—will come looking for it.”
Washington Post, “If not the NSA, who should store the phone data?” (12.26.2013)
Privacy Partner Michael Sussmann was quoted in a front-page Washington Post story, "If not the NSA, who should store the phone data?,” discussing alternatives to the NSA’s current practice of storing bulk telephony metadata, such as requiring phone companies to store the data, for later query by NSA after court approval. But the viability of a particular option can only be evaluated after knowing which approach is chosen by the President. “The question is: Is there going to be [a] mend it, don’t end it solution? Or just an end it?’’ said Michael Sussmann, an industry lawyer. “It’ll come down to what the politics will support.”
CNN, Erin Brown Out Front, "The NSA's Secret Court" (07.18.2013)
Privacy Partner Michael Sussmann was interviewed by CNN correspondent Joe Johns on the inner workings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court.
Federal News Radio, Federal Drive Show Blog (05.16.2013)
Privacy Partner Michael Sussmann was interviewed on Federal News Radio about White House Consideration of Expansion to Federal Wiretap Laws.
New York Times, "U.S. Weighs Wider Wiretap Laws to Cover Online Activity" (05.08.2013)
In a front-page New York Times story, "U.S. Weighs Wider Wiretap Laws to Cover Online Activity," Privacy Partner Michael Sussmann observed that White House-backed legislation that would make all popular Internet communications wiretap-able "appeared to be modeled on a British law, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act of 2000."
Washington Post, "As Cyberthreats Mount, Hacker’s Conviction Underscores Criticism of Government Overreach" (04.30.2013)
Privacy Partner Michael Sussmann was quoted in a front-page Washington Post story, "As cyberthreats mount, hacker’s conviction underscores criticism of government overreach," which discussed overzealous cybercrime prosecutions. Commenting on the prosecution of Andrew Auernheimer for collecting 120,000 email addresses from AT&T's iPad registration Web page, Sussmann considered it "borderline" whether Auernheimer had committed a crime, saying the case was "not endemic of an overreaction to cybercrime or overaggressive prosecutions in general," but "[f]orty one months in prison seems like an awfully long time when nothing bad happened."
Washington Post, "Panel Seeks to Fine Tech Companies for Noncompliance With Wiretap Orders" (04.29.2013)
Privacy Partner Michael Sussmann was quoted in a front-page Washington Post story, "Panel seeks to fine tech companies for noncompliance with wiretap orders," which discussed FBI-led efforts to create legislation requiring all communications services to be able to comply with wiretap orders. "Today, if you’re a tech company that’s created a new and popular way to communicate, it’s only a matter of time before the FBI shows up with a court order to read or hear some conversation." "If the data can help solve crimes, the government will be interested."
Wall Street Journal, "Wall Street vs. Its Employees' Privacy" (04.22.2013)
Privacy Partner Michael Sussmann was quoted in a front-page Wall Street Journal story, "Wall Street vs. Its Employees' Privacy," which discussed state legislative efforts to block companies from monitoring employees' personal Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Washington Post, "Heavy Documentation of Boston Marathon is an Asset to Investigation" (04.16.2013)
Privacy Partner Michael Sussmann was quoted in a Washington Post story, "Heavy Documentation of Boston Marathon is an Asset to Investigation," which discussed the "rich stream of possible evidence" drawn from surveillance cameras, personal photos and video footage, and cellphone records.
Washington Post, "FBI Surveillance Tool Is Ruled Unconstitutional" (03.16.2013)
Privacy Partner Michael Sussmann was quoted in a Washington Post story, "FBI Surveillance Tool Is Ruled Unconstitutional," which discussed the decision by a California federal court to invalidate the statute authorizing national security letters (section 2709 of the Stored Communications Act) because the section's nondisclosure provision violates the First Amendment.
Boston Globe, "Suicide of Internet Pioneer Prompts Emotional Debate Over Federal Prosecution" (01.24.2013)
Privacy Partner Michael Sussmann was quoted in a Boston Globe article, "Suicide of Internet Pioneer Prompts Emotional Debate Over Federal Prosecution," that questioned the Department of Justice's actions in its prosecution of hacker/activist Aaron Swartz. "Some lawyers agreed that Swartz’s alleged actions were clearly criminal violations, and that prosecutors were justified in pursuing the case. 'This one fell squarely in the statute,' said Michael Sussmann. 'This is what the statute was written for. People who have data in computers want them to be confidential.'"
New York Times, "How M.I.T. Ensnared a Hacker, Bucking a Freewheeling Culture" (01.20.2013)
Privacy Partner Michael Sussmann was quoted in a front-page New York Times article, "How M.I.T. Ensnared a Hacker, Bucking a Freewheeling Culture," about the suicide of hacker/activist Aaron Swartz, who took his life as his trial for allegedly hacking into the M.I.T. computer network was poised to begin. M.I.T. has come under withering attack for referring the case to law enforcement and for assisting the U.S. Attorney's Office in its prosecution. M.I.T. was the victim and that, without more information, it had to assume any hackers were "the Chinese, even though it’s a 16-year-old with acne." Once the police were called in, the university could not back away from the investigation. "After there’s a referral, victims don’t have the opportunity to change their mind."
New York Times, "City Is Amassing Trove of Cellphone Logs" (11.26.2012)
Privacy Partner Michael Sussmann was quoted in a New York Times article, "City Is Amassing Trove of Cellphone Logs," which detailed the "trove of telephone logs" that the NYPD collects and stores relating to the thousands of cell phone theft cases they investigate. "If large amounts of victim phone records are being collected and added to a searchable database, it’s very troubling." "We’re all used to the concept of growing databases of criminal information, but now you’re crossing over that line and drawing in victim information."
Washington Post, "FBI investigation of Broadwell Reveals Bureau’s Comprehensive Access to Electronic Communications" (11.18.2012)
Privacy Partner Michael Sussmann was quoted in a front-page story in the Sunday Washington Post, "FBI investigation of Broadwell Reveals Bureau’s Comprehensive Access to Electronic Communications," reporters discussing the implications of the enormous amounts of data collected in General David Petraeus/Paula Broadwell investigation.
The Diane Rehm Show, "Law Enforcement’s Growing Reliance On Cell Phone Data" (07.25.2012)
Privacy Partner Michael Sussmann was a panelist for a full hour dedicated to "Law Enforcement’s Growing Reliance On Cell Phone Data." Guests included Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau, Chris Calabrese from the ACLU, and John Bottone, Vice President of the Federal Law Enforcement Officer's Association.
New York Times, "Police Are Using Phone Tracking as a Routine Tool" (4.02.2012)
Privacy Partner Michael Sussmann was quoted in a front-page New York Times article, "Police Are Using Phone Tracking as a Routine Tool." The article discussed the government's increasing use of cell phone tracking in criminal investigations and the need for clearer laws on location tracking. The law is understandably confusing “when even the federal courts can’t agree." Carriers “push back a lot" when the police urgently seek out cell locations or other information in what are purported to be life-or-death situations. "Not every emergency is really an emergency."
Washington Post, "Hackers Eavesdrop on FBI, Scotland Yard Call" (02.09.2012)
Privacy Partner Michael Sussmann was quoted in a Washington Post article titled, "Hackers Eavesdrop on FBI, Scotland Yard Call," which reported that an FBI conference call with Scotland Yard in their investigation of an international group of hackers was secretly monitored by the hackers under investigation. "Other than the fact it’s not al Qaeda, it’s the worst-case scenario that the target of your operation is listening in on your call."
Washington Post, "FDA Staffers Sue Agency Over Surveillance of Personal E-mail" (01.30.2012)
Privacy Partner Michael Sussmann was quoted in a front-page Washington Post story alleging that the FDA, through aggressive surveillance of employee email, retaliated against nine whistleblowers who reported to Congress corruption and risks to women with breast cancer. Sussmann said the FDA’s warning on its computers gave the agency latitude to conduct extensive monitoring. "Anything on this agency’s network is fair game by use of this banner, as long as they’re lawfully targeting their employee."
Washington Post, "White House Proposal Would Ease FBI Access to Records of Internet Activity" (07.29.2010)
Privacy Partner Michael Sussmann was quoted In a front-page Washington Post story, "White House Proposal Would Ease FBI Access to Records of Internet Activity," regarding a proposal to make it easier for the FBI to obtain records of user's Internet activity through use of national security letters. "You're bringing a big category of data -- records reflecting who someone is communicating with in the digital world, Web browsing history and potentially location information -- outside of judicial review."
Washington Post, "Relief for Phone Firms Proposed" (03.12.2008)
In a Washington Post article titled "Relief for Phone Firms Proposed," Privacy Partner Michael Sussmann was quoted regarding a proposal in the House of Representatives to move legal proceedings relating to the government's alleged warrantless surveillance program into secret court sessions, without plaintiff attorneys present. Sussmann said the proposal "still exposes carriers to huge losses" and does not address their concerns about protracted litigation.
New York Times, "Senate Votes to Expand Spy Powers" (02.13.2008)
Privacy Partner Michael Sussmann was quoted in a front-page New York Times article, "Senate Votes to Expand Spy Powers," concerning the impact of Senate agreement on broad amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Sussmann noted that this "represents a dramatic restructuring of surveillance law," pointing to the impact from removing court review in selecting wiretap targets.
Washington Post, "Democrats to Offer New Surveillance Rules--Bill Aims to Meet Privacy and Security Concerns; Fierce Debate Is Expected" (10.07.2007)
Privacy Partner Michael Sussmann was quoted in the Sunday edition of the Washington Post about provider immunity and amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Senate Judiciary Committee Testimony, "Perspective of Communications Providers on the Protect America Act of 2007" (09.25.2007)
Privacy Partner Michael Sussmann provided written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on "Perspective of Communications Providers on the Protect America Act of 2007."
Wired Magazine, "Cell-Phone Tracking: Laws Needed" (05.2006)
Privacy Partner Michael Sussmann was quoted in a Wired Magazine article on efforts by the cell-phone industry and privacy advocates to have Congress clarify the widespread police practice of using mobile phones to track suspects without probable cause. "The industry wants clear, standardized rules governing cell-phone tracking." "Some orders we see are daisy chains, where we get a subpoena for information on one person and then they want all the information on the persons calling or called by them."
- Listed in Chambers Global and Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business
- Brooklyn Law School, J.D., 1989
- Rutgers University, B.S., Accounting, 1986
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New York
- U.S. Supreme Court
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
- U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York
- U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York