Report: Microsoft helped NSA circumvent its own encryption

Microsoft says it does not give the NSA blanket access to its users' communications

Microsoft helped the U.S. National Security Agency circumvent the company's own encryption in order to conduct surveillance on email accounts through Outlook.com, according to a new report in the Guardian.

Microsoft-owned Skype also worked with U.S. intelligence agencies last year to allow them to collect video conversations through the service, according to the U.K. newspaper, citing secret documents. Microsoft also worked with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation this year to allow easier access to its cloud storage service, SkyDrive, the Guardian reported.

Microsoft and Skype have both emphasized their privacy protections as a benefit of using their services. Microsoft has criticized Google's privacy practices, saying in its Scroogled campaign that Google shares personal information on the Android mobile operating system with app developers.

Skype's privacy policy reads: "Skype is committed to respecting your privacy and the confidentiality of your personal data, traffic data and communications content."

Microsoft, in a statement, said it follows "clear principles" when responding to government demands for customer information.

"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," the company said. "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."

Microsoft does not provide "any government with blanket or direct access to SkyDrive, Outlook.com, Skype or any Microsoft product," the company added. "There are aspects of this debate that we wish we were able to discuss more freely."

The NSA routinely shares information it collects from Prism, its email and Web communications monitoring program, with the FBI and Central Intelligence Agency, the newspaper reported. One NSA document described Prism as a "team sport," the Guardian said.

The NSA's Prism program targets Internet communications of people outside the U.S., according to recent reports in the Guardian and other outlets. The U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has allowed the NSA to collect mass Internet communications when NSA officials believe that there is a 51 percent chance those communications come from outside the U.S., according to news reports.

A spokesman for the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence didn't immediately respond to a request for comments on the new report.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags privacyMicrosoftinternetvideoMailInternet-based applications and servicesU.S. National Security AgencyU.S. Federal Bureau of InvestigationU.S. Central Intelligence AgencyU.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Cate Bacon

Aruba Instant On AP11D

The strength of the Aruba Instant On AP11D is that the design and feature set support the modern, flexible, and mobile way of working.

Dr Prabigya Shiwakoti

Aruba Instant On AP11D

Aruba backs the AP11D up with a two-year warranty and 24/7 phone support.

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?