Microsoft Requests for Permission to Publish Detailed Data Request Information
Microsoft is accused of collaborating with the NSA and providing them with direct access to databases associated with Outlook.com, Skype and other services without any legal right. The corporation has denied these allegations. Furthermore, they asked the government for permission to reveal more details concerning private data handling. They would like to inform the public how they react when approached by government agencies.
The situation became intense when media had published reports concerning Microsoft and NSA collaboration. Supposedly, Microsoft is helping the government agency to bypass the encryption which is created in order to protect the privacy of Skype VoIP users. If the NSA is really provided with such access, it enables them to spy easily on the Skype users. Microsoft hasn’t released any reports concerning these allegations until Tuesday. That day, Brad Smith, corporation’s general counsel, published a report concerning the actions which are taken when Microsoft is asked for private data form government agencies. He stated that the company provides private information only when they are legally obliged to do that. For example, if they are given the court’s order. Nevertheless, Microsoft claims that they never reveal encryption keys.
Brad Smith also claimed that they provide data only concerning specific users. He reassured that the company does not provide wide access to Microsoft databases, encryption keys or its clients.
Microsoft is also alleged for providing the NSA with access to its other services such as Outlook.com. This reached the surface when ex-conductor from NSA, Edward Snowden, had revealed some classified documents. These accusations were also denied by the Microsoft, although the company admitted that they provide the data when court’s order is given.
Commenting the intelligence data revealed by Edward Snowden, Microsoft associate Brad Smith claimed that they had never provided information which would enable the NSA to directly access private emails or other services. He told that if information is legally required by some government agency, they take specific data from databases and give it to the them. According to him Microsoft, will never provide the NSA with encryption keys, and let the agency take the desired information by itself. That’s why third parties don’t have the capabilities to use specific data without the interaction of Microsoft. Nevertheless, the company will always obey the court’s order and will provide data which is needed.
Companies’, which store huge amounts of private data, such as Google or Microsoft, routinely release reports concerning the amount of times they were approached by government agencies, and asked for private information to be handed. Due to recent events Google and Microsoft asked the government if they could reveal more information concerning the handling of private data when they are contacted by NSA and other agencies. The companies want the public to know what kinds of requests are denied and what specific data is available for the government. Unfortunately, the Department of Justice has denied this request. As a result, Microsoft contacted Attorney General Eric Holder earlier this month.
In a letter addressed to Eric Holder, Microsoft asks him to say his opinion concerning Constitutional issues, which occurred due to these events. The corporation is concerned that many companies were not allowed to reveal their policy when dealing with government agencies; thus various speculations are created about how they are handling private data. Microsoft thinks it is the Constitutional right of the citizens to know such information. It is also stated in the letter that the current conflict between the government and the companies can only be solved either by Eric Holder himself or the President.
Microsoft states that due to the fact that they cannot make any comments regarding the leaked documents, the information in them is misunderstood thus the reputation of Microsoft is suffering. According to the company, the government has to make a decision concerning handling of private data as soon as possible as this situation is only unsettling the public. Furthermore, this situation only makes the activities of the government and the private companies look more suspicious.
The fact that Microsoft sent an open letter to the attorney general is very surprising. These kinds of actions are usually done secretly and are never revealed to the public. This just goes to show that the current situation is critical, and the decision has to be made quickly, and it was made even worse when the NSA leaks appeared.
Microsoft wonders why the government prohibits revelation of the private data handling policy. The company states that, in the recent year, a lot of data was leaked which is interpreted wrongly by the media and the public. As a result, measures must be taken to stop the public misinformation campaign, and the first step should be done by the government. It should allow such companies as Microsoft to speak openly about the private data which is provided to the NSA and other agencies.