Blog & Company News

Jul 17, 2013

Microsoft Denies Claims of PRISM Involvement

130409160521-microsoft-blue-620xaMicrosoft has denied any participation in the National Security Agency’s (NSA) mass surveillance after the Guardian accuses the software company of doing so. Citing “top-secret documents” as evidence, the Guardian published a story earlier this week stating that Microsoft has “collaborated closely with U.S. intelligence services to allow users’ communications to be intercepted.” Taking offense to the claims, Microsoft released a public statement saying, “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.” The UK-based paper said Edward Snowden provided the documents, which claimed Microsoft provided the U.S. government with access to SkyDrive, Skype, and other Microsoft products. “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,” wrote the Guardian. In a response, Microsoft said it only provides the government with access to customer data “only in response to legal processes.” Nevertheless, the Guardian accused Microsoft of receiving blanket orders from the secret surveillance court allowing communications through Skype,, etc. to be collected “without an individual warrant.” The paper also said the “if the NSA operative has a 51 percent belief that the target is not a U.S. citizen and is not on U.S. soil at the time,” they are allowed to collect individual data. “…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 illustrates,” said Microsoft. The company concluded their arguments stating, “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.” The company has since argued for additional transparency in order to allow everyone to understand the issue at place. Since the accusations, a former Microsoft engineer has stuck up for the software company in an interview with the Business Insider. The former employee said it would be very “improbable” for PRISM to do all of what the NSA documents said it could. The former Microsoft engineer noted four reasons why it would be “improbable”: 1. “Any data access is logged, monitored, audited.” 2. “Any such tool would need the involvement of a lot of people which grows over time. It would be hard to do this in secrecy.” 3. Culturally, Microsoft places a lot of focus on safely handling data and only handling data to outsiders through strict process.” 4. “I’ve worked in some of the systems that would have been touched and so have some friends. None of them have heard of this.” While the source told the Business Insider that he believes PRISM to be “improbable,” he also said it’s not entirely “impossible” either. “Maybe the NSA files fake court orders. Maybe they have malware that has access to the Microsoft network. Maybe they have secret Microsoft employees that carry out access for them and are smart enough to cover their tricks,” they said. In the most latest news regarding the issue, Microsoft has asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to help its efforts “to secure permission to release information about how it handles and has responded in the past to requests for customer data from government agencies,” as reported by All Things D. No word of Holder’s response has yet to be released.