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Microsoft got over 6,000 data requests during second half of 2012

Written by James Delahunty (Google+) @ 15 Jun 2013 13:49

Microsoft got over 6,000 data requests during second half of 2012 Microsoft has revealed that it received between 6,000 and 7,000 requests for user data from U.S. government sources at the local, state and federal level during the last six months of 2012.
It joins Facebook in reporting these figures following media reports about NSA requests for information. The total number of accounts affected in one way or another from the 6,000-7,000 requests is around 31,000-32,000 accounts.

Microsoft is stressing that it is only allowed to provide information on FISA requests (related to intelligence services) as long as it is included with all other law enforcement requests and only in blocks of 1,000 (hence, the "between 6,000 and 7,000 requests," as opposed to a specific figure).

Microsoft had joined Google and Facebook in pushing the U.S. government to allow it to provide more information on the volume of requests it receives. Facebook revealed earlier that it received between 9,000-10,000 information requests during the same period, also from sources at the local, state and federal level in the United States.

It explained that while some of these requests may involve intelligence related activity (counter-terrorism etc.), it also frequently gets requests for information in missing persons cases, or in the cases of fugitives who are being hunted by law enforcement. It also made it clear that it does not comply with all requests, downright rejecting some of them, while providing much less data than requested for others. Basically, Facebook stressed it only complies to its legal obligation and no more.

Microsoft is in a similar position, and in all likelihood, many of the data requests it received are aimed at individuals or groups that also are subject of data requests sent to other firms like Google or Facebook. However, it has been stressing too that media reports have been blatantly inaccurate ever since the NSA PRISM story broke.

"We have not received any national security orders of the type that Verizon was reported to have received that required Verizon to provide business records about U.S. customers," John Frank, Vice President & Deputy General Counsel at Microsoft, said.

The initial reports about the NSA surveillance programs suggested that the intelligence services have "direct access" to servers of Internet giants, and suggested they may be collecting information without the permission of FISA courts, which place stamp of approval on data requests and other surveillance related to intelligence services.

The major Internet giants flat out denied the suggestion that any intelligence services have direct access to their servers, and the initial report has come under considerable and growing scrutiny. It prompted them to push the U.S. government to allow them to explain more about the types of data requests they receive, the volume and how they handle them under the law.

While Microsoft and Facebook welcomed the green light to provide the limited details we have seen so far, both are calling for more transparency on the programs to help them to fix their reputations that they feel have been damaged by inaccurate and sensationalized media reports.

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