(Jason Howerton) Microsoft has worked closely with U.S. intelligence agencies to allow users’ private communications to be “intercepted,” according to “top-secret” documents obtained by the Guardian. This reportedly includes assisting the National Security Agency in getting around Microsoft’s own encryption.
The documents were provided to the Guardian by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
The latest information is being presented as evidence showing the cooperation between Silicon Valley and U.S. intelligence over the last three years. Microsoft’s apparent partnership with the NSA and other intelligence agencies also relates back to the NSA’s secret “Prism” program.
According to the Guardian, the documents show that:
• Microsoft helped the NSA to circumvent its encryption to address concerns that the agency would be unable to intercept web chats on the new Outlook.com portal;
• The agency already had pre-encryption stage access to email on Outlook.com, including Hotmail;
• The company worked with the FBI this year to allow the NSA easier access via Prism to its cloud storage service SkyDrive, which now has more than 250 million users worldwide;
• Microsoft also worked with the FBI’s Data Intercept Unit to “understand” potential issues with a feature in Outlook.com that allows users to create email aliases;
• Skype, which was bought by Microsoft in October 2011, worked with intelligence agencies last year to allow Prism to collect video of conversations as well as audio;
• Material collected through Prism is routinely shared with the FBI and CIA, with one NSA document describing the program as a “team sport”
“When we upgrade or update products we aren’t absolved from the need to comply with existing or future lawful demands,” Microsoft said in a statement.
“The company reiterated its argument that it provides customer data ‘only in response to government demands and we only ever comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers’,” the Guardian reports.
Responding to the public outrage over the extensive spying efforts by the federal government, many of the major tech companies want to disclose the full extent of their partnership with the NSA to quell customer concerns. Unless the government rules otherwise, the companies are not allowed to disclose any information about the secret programs.