Microsoft details takedown requests in expanded transparency report

Overall requests for data from Microsoft's services have grown

In response to growing government demands for data, tech companies have been detailing those requests in transparency reports that elaborate on what gets done when government agencies come calling for users' data.

Microsoft just released the latest incarnation of its data on Wednesday, including a new report on requests to get information taken down from the company's services.

Those requests, unsurprisingly, are focused on Bing, since it's the Microsoft service most responsible for displaying data to the public. That said, takedown requests came for includes other services, too, such as MSN and OneDrive.

The company's report breaks those requests down into three categories: first, takedown requests based on alleged violations of local laws and Microsoft's terms of service; then copyright takedowns, and finally, takedowns performed as the result of "right to be forgotten" requests in Europe.

China filed 165 takedown requests, almost eight times as many as all other countries combined.

By category, copyright takedown requests were by far the most common worldwide, with Microsoft receiving more than 1 million total requests to remove links from Bing that people claimed infringed on their copyrights. They're also the farthest reaching: Microsoft will take down an infringing piece of content everywhere in the world, while other types of content described in the report are removed only in one country or region.

The report seems to point toward Bing's continuing relevance to Microsoft's business. Especially now that the company's search engine is powering its Cortana digital assistant across Windows 10, Android and soon iOS, big takedowns could have significant consequences on how people use Microsoft's products beyond the bing.com search interface.

Aside from takedowns, Microsoft saw 35,228 requests for information from law enforcement, up from 31,002 in the second half of 2014. The company also became more strict in how it dealt with those requests, rejecting 4,383 for not meeting its legal requirements, nearly twice as many as it did in the last half of 2014. Only 3 percent of the law enforcement requests resulted in Microsoft handing over content from its services that users stored, shared or created.

Requests for information under U.S. national security laws didn't change much. Microsoft received fewer than 1,000 requests for data from fewer than 19,000 accounts, down from a similar number of requests that involved fewer than 20,000 accounts. (Microsoft is only able to report requests in bands of 1,000.)

All this comes amid more discussions about the role of government in digital life. Microsoft is fighting a lawsuit from the U.S. government asking the company to turn over data that's stored in a data centre in Ireland.

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Blair Hanley Frank

IDG News Service
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