Microsoft has hit back at accusations that it allows US authorities to have unfettered access to its services such as Outlook, SkyDrive and Skype and has asked the US attorney general for the right to reveal more information on the requests it receives.
Claims circulated last week via whistleblower Edward Snowden that Microsoft gave “blanket access” to it services, which Microsoft denied. Now, in a detailed blog post, legal counsel Brad Smith has provided more detail on the ways in which Microsoft handles data requests.
“We do not provide any government with direct access to emails or instant messages. Full stop,” he said.
“Like all providers of communications services, we are sometimes obligated to comply with lawful demands from governments to turn over content for specific accounts, pursuant to a search warrant or court order.”
Microsoft also sought to reassure business customers that it has never passed on data under national security requests, and would always do its utmost to ensure customers are aware of any requests.
“If we receive a government demand for data held by a business customer, we take steps to redirect the government to the customer directly, and we notify the customer unless we are legally prohibited from doing so,” Smith wrote.
“We have never provided any government with customer data from any of our business or government customers for national security purposes. We do not provide any government with the ability to break the encryption used between our business customers and their data in the cloud, nor do we provide the government with the encryption keys.”
Microsoft also posted a copy of the letter it sent to attorney general Eric Holder, in which it voiced its frustration at the government’s slow response to the concerns being raised by tech giants such as Microsoft, adding that not allowing more transparency is damaging to firms' reputations.
“Last week we requested official permission to publicly explain practices that are the subject of newly leaked documents that refer to Microsoft and have now been misinterpreted in news stories around the world. This request was rejected,” it said in the letter.
“While we understand that various government agencies are trying to reach a decision on these issues, this has been the response for weeks. In the meantime, the practical result of this indecision is continued refusals to allow us to share more information with the public.”
Smith went on to say the government must act now as it can no longer deny the existence of PRISM and so allowing firms such as Microsoft to release more information will benefit the public.
"It’s time to face some obvious facts. Numerous documents are now in the public domain. As a result, there is no longer a compelling government interest in stopping those of us with knowledge from sharing more information, especially when this information is likely to help allay public concerns," he wrote.
The calls come after Yahoo won a notable victory in the FISA court to release more information on its attempts to fight the establishment of the PRISM system, as many of the major firms embroiled in the scandal look to distance themselves from the government.
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