Microsoft and the NSA … a ‘team’ to get more information from us


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New disclosures about how Microsoft actively collaborates with the NSA to infiltrate Skydrive and encrypted messages on a large scale.

The Guardian newspaper today has damaging revelations about how Microsoft had gone beyond simply responding to specific requests from the US government for information on individuals using Outlook.com, Skydrive and other cloud services.

According to Microsoft, the company only responds to legal warrants or subpoenas:

“We require a valid subpoena or equivalent document before we will consider releasing non-content data; and we require a court order or warrant before we will consider producing content.”

However that statement doesn’t take into account laws which might force the company to provide more information.  The US Patriot Act does exactly that.

‘Team Sport’

These new revelations suggest that Microsoft has gone beyond mere compliance with the law.  Microsoft appears to have been an active participant in developing systems and ‘side entrances’ to allow government snooping on private information.

As products like Outlook.com are developed, Microsoft staff are alleged to work with the National Security Agency (NSA) to ensure there are systems in place to read even encrypted emails.  The same applies to Hotmail.com.    There’s no mention of Office 365 email hosting but it’s reasonable to assume that Microsoft has allowed wide access there too.

Skydrive ‘back end’ systems were changed to allow the FBI easier access to cloud storage via the now infamous Prism system.

After Microsoft bought the Skype service, Redmond changed the way Skype operates to allow easier government snooping.

This cooperation goes to the extent that an NSA document called their work with Microsoft a ‘team sport’.  The promises that Microsoft only act on legal demands looks pretty thin when they’re called part of the ‘team’ invading even encrypted communications on a wholesale basis.

It seems that Microsoft decided that it is best for the company (not customers) if they help government agencies actively.  After all, the US government is a very big Microsoft customer.  The US government could make life difficult for Microsoft in many different ways so it makes sense for any company to go along with broad data demands while paying lip service to customers privacy.

 

Any company has to comply with specific requests for information, not just Microsoft.  However these documents suggest that Microsoft has gone beyond ‘by the book’ compliance and, despite public assurances otherwise, has actively worked with the US government to make intrusion into customers personal information easier and faster.

Microsoft’s “Your privacy is our priority.” slogan is looking like marketing spin … not that would be any surprise to most people.

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