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Wednesday, 17 July 2013 11:30

Microsoft denies giving emails to NSA

Written by Nick Farrell

No direct access

Software giant Microsoft has denied giving US spooks direct access to its Outlook email service or instant messages. Last week the news feeds were abuzz with the news that Vole had helped the NSA circumvent the company’s own encryption in order to conduct surveillance on email accounts through Outlook.com.

But this week company General Counsel Brad Smith said it was completely untrue. Microsoft did not provide any government with direct access to emails or instant messages. Writing in his bog, Smith said that the company does not help government agencies circumvent its encryption.

“To be clear, we do not provide any government with the ability to break the encryption, nor do we provide the government with the encryption keys,” he wrote. Microsoft only acts when it is legally obligated. The material is pulled from Microsoft servers where it sits in an unencrypted state, and then we provide it to the government agency.

Microsoft has asked US Attorney General Eric Holder to permit Microsoft and other communications providers to share “more complete information” about how they handle national security requests for customer information.

“The U.S. Constitution guarantees our freedom to share more information with the public, yet the government is stopping us,” he said.

Microsoft provides government access to data stored in its SkyDrive service and to Skype calls when presented with a legal order to do so, such as a search warrant or national security letter, Smith said. If asked for customer data in enterprise email or document storage, Microsoft attempts to redirect the requesting government agency back to the customer, he said, “and we notify the customer unless we are legally prohibited from doing so.”

He said that Vole had never provided any government with customer data from any business or government customers for national security purposes. In 2012, the company complied with four law enforcement requests related to business or government customers, he added.

Nick Farrell

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