The Latest Leaks Contradict Claims Made In Microsoft's Own 'Law Enforcement Requests Report'

from the protecting-your-privacy-except-for-these-large-exceptions dept

The Guardian's recent revelations of Microsoft's very cozy "teamwork" with the NSA and FBI rendered many of the software giant's statements on privacy completely hollow. Among the details leaked was the surprising amount of access to Skype Microsoft provided to these agencies.

One document boasts that Prism monitoring of Skype video production has roughly tripled since a new capability was added on 14 July 2012. "The audio portions of these sessions have been processed correctly all along, but without the accompanying video. Now, analysts will have the complete 'picture'," it says.

Eight months before being bought by Microsoft, Skype joined the Prism program in February 2011.

According to the NSA documents, work had begun on smoothly integrating Skype into Prism in November 2010, but it was not until 4 February 2011 that the company was served with a directive to comply signed by the attorney general.

The NSA was able to start tasking Skype communications the following day, and collection began on 6 February. "Feedback indicated that a collected Skype call was very clear and the metadata looked complete," the document stated, praising the co-operation between NSA teams and the FBI. "Collaborative teamwork was the key to the successful addition of another provider to the Prism system."
This document seems to contradict Microsoft's statement on Skype in March of this year in its 2012 Law Enforcement Requests Report.
Skype received 4,713 requests from law enforcement. Those requests impacted 15,409 accounts or other identifiers, such as a PSTN number. Skype produced no content in response to these requests, but did provide non-content data, such as a SkypeID, name, email account, billing information and call detail records if a user subscribed to the Skype In/Online service, which connects to a telephone number.
[All emphasis in the original.]

Perhaps "producing content" means something different to Microsoft than it does the NSA, or the general public for that matter. The leaked documents state "Skype video production has roughly tripled since July 2012" with the agent noting they've been collecting audio all along.

No doubt this discrepancy will be greeted with a semantic discussion, involving different ways of interpreting words like "producing" or "content." Perhaps Microsoft feels providing direct access isn't the same as "producing content." Or maybe Microsoft means it just hasn't produced content for law enforcement, and anything given to the FBI falls outside of its definition of that term. But if the FBI's requests are considered to be outside the definition of "law enforcement," Microsoft confuses the issue early in its report by referring to content disclosed to governments.
It’s insightful, I believe, to look at the governments to whom customer content was disclosed. Of the 1,558 disclosures of customer content, more than 99 percent were in response to lawful warrants from courts in the United States. In fact, there were only 14 disclosures of customer content to governments outside the United States. These were to governments in Brazil, Ireland, Canada and New Zealand.
Obviously, Microsoft isn't allowed to discuss much of its work with the NSA and the FBI, but the disclosure here makes it sound as if it's safeguarding the privacy of Skype users, when in reality it's simply holding the door open for the feds.


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jul 2013 @ 10:42am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yep. Microsoft have just become the largest incentive for governments to change to Linux and other FLOSS items.

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