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Microsoft pushes the National Security Agency on PRISM reform

05 Jun 2014

nsaMicrosoft has asked the US government to cool the surveillance work carried out by the National Security Agency, saying that it is harming reputations and business as a whole.

The firm has used the one-year anniversary of the Edward Snowden PRISM revelations to make its case, having already repeatedly made similar demands over customer data requests in the past.

A blog post that discusses "unfinished business" and is authored by legal lead Brad Smith has gone live on the Microsoft website. It notes that five changes are due and recommends that they are actioned before too much further harm is done.

"In the year since news reports surfaced about US government surveillance practices, a lot has changed. And there even have been some initial positive reforms. We all want to live in a safe and secure world and governments - including the US government - play a vital role in helping to protect our communities," wrote Smith.

"But the reality is clear. The US government needs to address important unfinished business to reduce the technology trust deficit it has created."

There are five things for the government to address and Smith listed them. He said that the first thing needed is the ceasing of overreach and asked the government to limit its official search warrants to entities in its own domain.

"The US government wouldn't stand for other governments seeking to serve search warrants within American borders to seize the content of US citizens' emails without going through US legal process," he explained.

"Why should it expect other governments to react any differently? The US government should stop trying to force tech companies to circumvent treaties by turning over data in other countries."

The next demands look to blow away the covers from PRISM and data collection, and number two on the Smith list is a call to the end of bulk collection - a regular bugbear of the protesting industry. Third is a demand for more openness around the surveillance-related court system, known as FISA, and fourth is the demand that the NSA stops ruining encryption efforts made by tech entities. Last is the demand for increased transparency, which is oft requested of the NSA.

"The US has both a responsibility and an opportunity to show new leadership on these issues," said Smith. "The advance of technology makes these issues even more important. Now is the time to act".

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Dave Neal

Dave Neal is a reporter at The INQUIRER. Previously he worked at, VNUnet, and IT Week in editor and journalist roles.

He started his career when the Y2K bug was a front page story and remains committed to covering the interesting world of technology news.

He left the world of office working four years ago and now represents The INQUIRER from home in Kent with his dog.

Dave has been quoted in papers including the London Metro.

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