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!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags governmentsecurityprivacyMicrosoftinternetvideoMailInternet-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

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?