With PRISM taking over the headlines, the focus has narrowed more on which companies were complying with NSA requests, and which ones were putting up barriers. According to report Microsoft worked with the NSA to aid the FBI, provide encryption workarounds to gain access to Skype calls, Outlook Web chats and email, and data stored on Microsoft’s cloud-based SkyDrive.
The new information was offered from NSA leaker Edward Snowden via the Guardian newspaper. According to the report Microsoft “has collaborated closely with U.S. intelligence services to allow users’ communications to be intercepted, including helping the National Security Agency to circumvent the company’s own encryption, according to top-secret documents obtained by the Guardian.” All of this information is being reported from Edward Snowden which the Guardian states “illustrate(s) the scale of cooperation between Silicon Valley and the intelligence agencies over the last three years.”
Microsoft released a statement to NBC News saying, “We only ever comply with orders about specific accounts or identifiers, and we would not respond to the kind of blanket orders discussed in the press over the past few weeks, as the volumes documented in our most recent disclosure clearly illustrate”. “To be clear, Microsoft does not provide any government with blanket or direct access to SkyDrive, Outlook.com, Skype or any Microsoft product.”
Microsoft continues, “legal obligations may in some circumstances require that we maintain the ability to provide information in response to a law enforcement or national security request. There are aspects of this debate that we wish we were able to discuss more freely. That’s why we’ve argued for additional transparency that would help everyone understand and debate these important issues.”
ACLU principal technologist Chris Soghoian told NBC News that the new revelations show that “time and time again, companies that specifically advertise their services as privacy protecting have been forced to circumvent those privacy protections to enable the government to spy on their customers.”
Customers, nes agencies and watchdog groups continue to put pressure on Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Apple, Yahoo and AOL to release what information is being shared with the NSA. It should be noted that many companies, including Microsoft, are requesting government permission to make the previous request claims more transparent. The Guardian also claimedm that Microsoft, “also worked with the FBI’s Data Intercept Unit to ‘understand’ potential issues with a feature in Outlook.com that allows users to create email aliases.” Last March, Microsoft published the following statement:
“Microsoft and Skype received a total of 75,378 law enforcement requests,” the company said in the report. “Those requests potentially impacted 137,424 accounts. While it is not possible to directly compare the number of requests to the number of users affected, it is likely that less than 0.02 percent of active users were affected.”
Now Microsoft’s statement released today reads, “clear principles which guide the response across our entire company to government demands for customer information for both law enforcement and national security issues.”
Snowden remains at large, wanted by American authorities and is believed to still be at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport. He has been charged with three counts of espionage.