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Microsoft releases Skype transparency report under pressure from privacy groups

21 Mar 2013

Microsoft has released details of the number of requests for user data made by law enforcement in 2012.

The report comes following calls for transparency from online privacy advocates. According to the report, Microsoft and Skype received more than 75,000 requests for data last year. Redmond says the requests potentially affected 137,424 user accounts.

"We are providing information on the criminal law enforcement requests we receive for customer data," wrote Microsoft in a blog post.

"Like others in the industry, we believe it is important for the public to have access to information about law enforcement access to customer data, particularly as customers are increasingly using technology to communicate and store private information."

Microsoft's transparency report comes following similar releases from the likes of Google and Twitter. Google released its latest report earlier this month, while Twitter launched its data request logs in January.

Earlier this, 44 privacy groups pushed Microsoft to disclose information on law enforcement requests for Skype user data.

Skype was acquired by Microsoft in 2011. Up until recently the firm did not report law enforcement requests for Skype user data in its transparency report.

According to the report, Microsoft disclosed customer content to law enforcement agencies about two percent of the time. The report also shows that the firm disclosed non-content information about 79 percent of the time.

Microsoft defines non-content information as basic user data such as last used IP address, customer names, and login names. Content information is considered data such as cloud stored documents and email text.

Along with general disclosure data, Microsoft also released information on requests made by National Security Letters (NSLs).

The letters are requests for non-content data that does not require a court order. Redmond is only allowed to share ballpark figures for the NSLs disclosures.

The report finds that Microsoft received up to 999 NSL requests in 2012. Until recently no information on NSL letters were allowed to be disclosed in transparency reports.

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James Dohnert

James is a freelance writer and editor. In addition to ClickZ, his work has appeared in publications like V3, The Commonwealth Club,, and Shonen Jump magazine. He studied Journalism at Weber State University.

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