Throughout the year, Microsoft has lambasted Google and accused them of shady privacy policies via its “Scroogled” campaign.
But now, new top-secret documents given to The Guardian by Edward Snowden shows how it was actually Microsoft allowing the NSA and FBI access to user data from platforms like Outlook, SkyDrive and Skype.
Microsoft and other tech giants have denied their involvement in a government program called PRISM that allegedly gave the U.S. government broad access to nine tech company servers for purposes of U.S. intelligence gathering.
But this new report from The Guardian shows that Microsoft not only provided user information to the U.S. government, but collaborated with them to allow access around encryption.
Documents from the NSA Special Source Operation division show how the NSA worked with Microsoft to make sure that it could get past the security settings on Outlook.com, which formally launched this past February. The Redmond software giant also allowed the NSA and FBI access to video and audio conversations on Microsoft-owned Skype, as well as files in the company’s cloud-storage platform SkyDrive.
Even more, the documents reveal that Microsoft allowed PRISM to access information on Outlook around encryption, and access to SkyDrive without separate authorization.
Update: Here’s the full Microsoft statement on the topic.
“We have clear principles which guide the response across our entire company to government demands for customer information for both law enforcement and national security issues. First, we take our commitments to our customers and to compliance with applicable law very seriously, so we provide customer data only in response to legal processes. Second, our compliance team examines all demands very closely, and we reject them if we believe they aren’t valid. Third, 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. Finally when we upgrade or update products 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.”
Microsoft says it wants to help the public understand the nature of the requests, and the company joined Google and Facebook in asking the U.S. government for more transparency on government requests for national security information.
“Permitting greater transparency on the aggregate volume and scope of national security requests, including FISA orders, would help the community understand and debate these important issues,” a Microsoft spokesperson said last month. “Our recent Report went as far as we legally could and the government should take action to allow companies to provide additional transparency.”
Previously on GeekWire: Secrecy and trust: Why the NSA leaks feel like ‘The X-Files’