Microsoft: ‘We are taking steps to ensure governments use legal process’

| December 6, 2013

Despite reports this past summer that Microsoft has collaborated closely with US intelligence services to allow users’ communications to be intercepted, Microsoft corporate affairs executive Brad Smith expressed his concerns regarding “government snooping” on his blog on Wednesday.

“Many of our customers have serious concerns about government surveillance of the Internet. We share their concerns. That’s why we are taking steps to ensure governments use legal process rather than technological brute force to access customer data,” Smith said.

According to him these steps include expanding encryption efforts, reinforcing legal protection for customer data, and ensuring products do not have back doors to hack through. All of Microsoft’s new encryption efforts will be in place by the end of 2014, though according to Smith much of it is effective right now.

Microsoft’s assurance to consumers that their information is safe becomes less meaningful however when you look at documents – published in the Guardian and the Washington Post last month – which show the company’s involvement within a program called Prism. It allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats.

A few interesting notes from the documents include:

• Microsoft helped the NSA to circumvent its encryption to address concerns that the agency would be unable to intercept web chats on the new portal

• In July last year, nine months after Microsoft bought Skype, the NSA boasted that a new capability had tripled the amount of Skype video calls being collected through Prism

• The company worked with the FBI this year to allow the NSA easier access via Prism to its cloud storage service SkyDrive, which now has more than 250 million users worldwide

Smith’s abrupt bashing on “government snooping,” which he says are “recent revelations,” is a little off. These revelations have been around for months now, and his recent statements appear to be more of a desperate attempt to instill confidence in consumers who are growing more aware of the surveillance surrounding their online activities, which let’s be honest, isn’t really a secret anymore.

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