A year after the blockbuster revelations about U.S. government surveillance programs, Microsoft is prodding the U.S. government to go further with its reforms by declaring an end to bulk data collection, reforming the FISA court, and committing to stop hacking data centers, among other steps.
Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, outlines the company’s proposals in a new blog post.
“In the year since news reports surfaced about U.S. government surveillance practices, a lot has changed. And there even have been some initial positive reforms,” Smith writes in the post. “But the reality is clear. The U.S. Government needs to address important unfinished business to reduce the technology trust deficit it has created.”
The Redmond company was among those identified in previously secret NSA documents as cooperating with massive government collection programs, as leaked by Edward Snowden to the Guardian and Washington Post newspapers. But Microsoft has denied going beyond the mandates of court orders, and recently made headlines for blocking an FBI request for customer data.
Read Smith’s full post here. Here’s an extended excerpt outlining the company’s proposed steps.
• Recognize that U.S. search warrants end at U.S. borders: We’re concerned about governmental attempts to use search warrants to force companies to turn over the contents of non-U.S. customer communications that are stored exclusively outside the United States. The U.S. government wouldn’t stand for other governments seeking to serve search warrants within American borders to seize the content of U.S. citizens’ emails without going through U.S. legal process. Why should it expect other governments to react any differently? …
• End bulk collection: President Obama expressed a desire to end bulk collection of data of telephone records. While Microsoft has never received an order related to bulk collection of Internet data, we believe the USA Freedom Act should be strengthened to prohibit more clearly any such orders in the future.
• Reform the FISA Court: We need to increase the transparency of the FISA Court’s proceedings and rulings, and introduce the adversarial process that is the hallmark of a fair judicial system. There remains a fundamental truth about legal disputes: a judge who hears only one side of a case is less likely to render a just result. Congress needs to recognize and act on the need for FISA Court reform.
• Commit not to hack data centers or cables: We believe our efforts to expand encryption across our services make it much harder for any government to successfully hack data in transit or at rest. Yet more than seven months after the Washington Post first reported that the National Security Agency hacked systems outside the U.S. to access data held by Yahoo! and Google, the Executive Branch remains silent about its views of this practice. Shouldn’t a government that prosecutes foreigners who hack into U.S. companies stop its own employees from hacking into such businesses? Why must we continue to wait for an assurance on this issue?
• Continue to increase transparency: Earlier this year, we won the right to publish important data on the number of national security-related demands that we receive. This helped to provide a broader understanding of the overall volume of government orders. It was a good step, but we believe even more detail can be provided without undermining national security.