Microsoft Reports Rise in Government Data Requests

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New Microsoft transparency website reveals rising law enforcement and US intelligence data requests

Microsoft has launched a new transparency website called the Microsoft Transparency Hub, in a move that could further strain Redmond’s relationship with the US federal government.

This is because the new website will collate all of Redmond’s existing transparency reports, including the Law Enforcement Requests Report and US National Security Orders Report. This means that all US requests for data will be available in one location.

Data Privacy

network scan machine fingerprint privacy security © Bruce Rolff ShutterstockMicrosoft is leading the data privacy fight against the US government, in the aftermath of the Edward Snowden NSA leaks.

Indeed, Redmond is currently locked in an ongoing battle with US authorities over a court order to turn over customer email records, despite the fact that the records are stored outside the United States in a sovereign country (Ireland).

Microsoft said that the Law Enforcement Requests Report and US National Security Orders Report have been “extensively redesigned”. It reveals US intelligence from the first six months of 2015, with the exception of orders from the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which are subject to a six-month reporting delay.

Microsoft said it had received a total number of 35,228 requests for customer information from law enforcement agencies in the first half of 2015. This was up slightly from the 31,002 requests received for the second half of 2014.

Microsoft said that it does not disclose customer content without a court order or warrant, and only 3 percent of law enforcement requests resulted in the disclosure of content customers created, shared or stored on its services.

Redmond also revealed that the total number of requests rejected for not meeting legal requirements had doubled again. And it seems that five countries are requesting the most data, with the United States, United Kingdom, Turkey, France and Germany making up 72.7 percent of total requests.

The Microsoft Transparency Hub not only reveals what data the US government is requested from Microsoft, but the website also reveals what content removal requests it has received from individuals, businesses, courts and the government.

“We also expect that our new Microsoft Transparency Hub will continue to evolve as we gather here reports on a variety of other topics and seek to provide our customers with a better understanding of how Microsoft works to improve transparency about these types of requests and about our own activities around the world,” said the company.

Strained Relationship

The new Microsoft website could add to the tension between it and US authorities. And authorities in the UK are also becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of co-operation from tech firms.

Earlier this month, one of the UK’s top anti-terror police officers, Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley reportedly claimed that social media giants aren’t doing enough to help police with the fight against terrorism.

Rowley claimed that social media companies are causing a “growing number of blind spots”. He said data relating to terror threats is patchy because of encrypted communications and unwillingness from social media companies to cooperate with the police.

In May this year, Microsoft found itself in hot water in Belgium following the company’s refusal to hand over customer data concerning a Skype user to a court in that country.

Europe’s top court has recently suspended an agreement that allowed data-sharing between the EU and the US for the past 15 years, following months of increased tensions over spying and the protection of personal data

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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