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 governmentprivacyMicrosoftinternetvideoMailInternet-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

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

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.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?