Microsoft Denies Skype-Spying Allegations

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Microsoft claims it has never granted any government direct access to Skype or any other products.

Microsoft denied that it provides the U.S. government (or any other) with "blanket or direct access to SkyDrive, Outlook.com, Skype, or any Microsoft product." The company issued its statement in response to a Guardian report yesterday that alleged Skype has been funneling user data into the NSA's alleged PRISM surveillance program since 2011.

Microsoft said that "clear principles" guide its response to government requests for customer information "for both law enforcement and national security issues." The company insisted that it only provides customer data in response to "legal processes," and said that it only ever complies with "orders about specific accounts or identifiers." The company said it simply would "not respond" to "blanket orders" such as those described in the Guardian story.

To bolster its case, Microsoft cited its disclosure last month that in the second half of 2012, it received

between 6,000 and 7,000 criminal and national security warrants, subpoenas and orders affecting between 31,000 and 32,000 consumer accounts from U.S. governmental entities (including local, state and federal).

The company implied, though without stating so explicitly, that any sort of blanket or direct access to Microsoft services such as alleged in the Guardian story would have affected a much greater number of user accounts.

Here's the full text of Microsoft's response:

In response to an article in the Guardian on July 11, Microsoft issued the following statement:

“We have clear principles which guide the response across our entire company to government demands for customer information for both law enforcement and national security issues.  

First, we take our commitments to our customers and to compliance with applicable law very seriously, so we provide customer data only in response to legal processes.  Second, our compliance team examines all demands very closely, and we reject them if we believe they aren’t valid.  Third, we only ever comply with orders about specific accounts or identifiers, and we would not respond to the kind of blanket orders discussed in the press over the past few weeks, as the volumes documented in our most recent disclosure clearly illustrate. To be clear, Microsoft does not provide any government with blanket or direct access to SkyDrive, Outlook.com, Skype or any Microsoft product. 

Finally when we upgrade or update products legal obligations may in some circumstances require that we maintain the ability to provide information in response to a law enforcement or national security request. There are aspects of this debate that we wish we were able to discuss more freely.  That’s why we’ve argued for additional transparency that would help everyone understand and debate these important issues."