Secret documents, leaked by Edward Snowden, reportedly show how Microsoft actively “collaborated” with the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) allowing it to intercept users’ personal communications — and going to the extent of helping it circumvent its own encryption.
According to The Guardian, they “illustrate the scale of co-operation between Silicon Valley and the intelligence agencies over the last three years.” They also reveal the workings of the controversial PRISM programme which allows the NSA to collect internet data of foreign citizens and share it with the CIA and FBI.
Britain’s intelligence headquarters, GCHQ, has reportedly made extensive use of PRISM to harvest email and phone details of British citizens prompting calls for an independent inquiry.
The paper said that, according to the documents, Microsoft helped the NSA to get round its encryption to address concerns that the agency would be unable to intercept web chats on the new Outlook.com portal.
“The files show that the NSA became concerned about the interception of encrypted chats on Microsoft's Outlook.com portal from the moment the company began testing the service in July last year. Within five months, the documents explain, Microsoft and the FBI had come up with a solution that allowed the NSA to circumvent encryption on Outlook.com chats,” it said.
The company also reportedly allowed the NSA easier access to its cloud storage service SkyDrive, which has more than 250 million users worldwide.
Microsoft’s actions run counter to its marketing campaign which claims that “Your privacy is our priority.” Other internet services such as Skype, Google and Facebook, which are reported to have collaborated with the NSA, have similar publicly declared privacy policies.
Microsoft denied any wrongdoing claiming that it was simply complying with “existing or future lawful demands.”
“When we upgrade or update products we aren't absolved from the need to comply with existing or future lawful demands,” it said in a statement insisting that it provided customer data “only in response to government demands and we only ever comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers.”