Saturday, July 13, 2013

Microsoft Denies Providing NSA 'Direct, Blanket' Access

Microsoft this week denied that it provides the government with "blanket or direct access" to products like SkyDrive,, Skype, or any of its other products.

"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," Microsoft said in a statement.

Redmond's declaration came after The Guardian on Thursday published an article with what it said were details about how Microsoft participated in the National Security Agency's PRISM program.

"Microsoft helped the NSA to circumvent its encryption to address concerns that the agency would be unable to intercept web chats on the new portal," The Guardian said, citing NSA documents provided to the paper by former contractor Edward Snowden.

In response, Microsoft said it only provides the government with access to customer data "in response to legal processes."

"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," Redmond said.

According to The Guardian, the NSA was concerned about the encryption technology used on, which debuted in July 2012. "Within five months, the documents explain, Microsoft and the FBI had come up with a solution that allowed the NSA to circumvent encryption on chats," the paper said.

"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," Microsoft said.

The company concluded by saying that it would like to provide more information about its collaboration with the government, but is constrained by a gag order that prevents any firm from discussing the secretive FISA court that handles these types of proceedings.

"That's why we've argued for additional transparency that would help everyone understand and debate these important issues," Microsoft said, referencing a recent filing with the FISA court that asked for permission to publish general numbers about the number of FISA requests it receives. Google and Yahoo have made similar requests.

Among the fallout from the Snowden leaks was this week's decision by the organizers of the Defcon hacker conference to rescind their invitation to federal officials.


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