What they say about the Patriot Act

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Some comments and official statements from Microsoft, Google and Amazon.

Here’s some collected statements and legalese from some of the major players in the cloud market.

What Microsoft says about the Patriot Act

The UK launch of Office 365, Microsoft’s managing director for the UK made it clear that neither Microsoft nor any other company can guarantee the security of data from legal requests – that applies not just to US law but the laws of any country where Microsoft does business.


Can Microsoft guarantee that EU-stored data, held in EU based datacenters, will not leave the European Economic Area under any circumstances — even under a request by the Patriot Act?”

Gordon Frazer replied, in part:

Microsoft cannot provide those guarantees. Neither can any other company“.

Microsoft official position has long wording but has less disclosure than Google:

… if a governmental entity approaches Microsoft Online Services directly for information hosted on behalf of our customers, Microsoft Online Services will try in the first instance to redirect the entity to the customer to afford it the opportunity to determine how to respond. If nonetheless required to respond to the demand, Microsoft Online Services will only provide information belonging to its customers when it is legally required to do so, will limit the production to only that information which it is required to disclose and will use commercially reasonable efforts to notify the enterprise customer in advance of any production unless legally prohibited.

Redmond prefixes those words with the sentence “Microsoft Online Services believes that its customers should control their own information to the extent possible.” which is meant to be reassuring but means nothing.

What Google says about the Patriot Act

The German magazine WirtschaftsWoche (article here in German) says that Google had copied data from its servers in Europe and delivered it to US authorities.

Google hasn’t denied that article in fact it’s reported as saying “The company had already received many such queries”. Google sought to clarify with this statement:

As a law abiding company, we comply with valid legal process, and that – as for any US based company – means the data stored outside of the U.S. may be subject to lawful access by the U.S. government. That said, we are committed to protecting user privacy when faced with law enforcement requests. We have a long track record of advocating on behalf of user privacy in the face of such requests and we scrutinize requests carefully to ensure that they adhere to both the letter and the spirit of the law before complying.”

Google’s FAQ has their official position:

Like other technology and communications companies, we receive requests from government agencies around the world to provide information about users of our services and products. Like any law-abiding company, Google sometimes may be legally required to share information with law enforcement. However, before sharing any information we first scrutinize a request to make sure that it complies with both the spirit and the letter of the law–and we may refuse to produce information or try to narrow the request. When possible and legally permissible, we notify the user in order to give him or her the opportunity to object.

We’ve created an interactive map of Government Requests that shows the number of law enforcement inquiries for information about users and requests for Google to take down or censor content. We hope this step toward greater transparency will help in ongoing discussions about the appropriate scope and authority of government requests.


Google’s map of Government Requests is far from complete and fairly old (in May 2012 the most recent report ended more than 10 months before). It mostly talks about content removal requests (mainly YouTube) and doesn’t seem to include any Patriot Act requests. Since Google has admitted to copying data to US authorities without notifying the customer, it would seem reasonable for them (and other companies) to disclose the number of requests they receive and comply with.

On the other hand, Google’s disclosure is far better than from any other company we found.

What Amazon says about the Patriot Act

The head of Amazon Data Services in Japan is quoted as saying “because Amazon is a U.S. company, the data centre of Amazon Web Services in Tokyo will fall within the scope of the USA Patriot Act”.

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