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REPORT: Microsoft Helped NSA, FBI Spy On Users’ Emails And Skype Calls

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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in New York 30 November 2006. (Photo credit TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in New York 30 November 2006. (Photo credit TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

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(CBS Seattle) — Microsoft has reportedly worked closely with the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in intercepting users’ emails and Skype calls.

“Top Secret” documents obtained by The Guardian  — which were provided by Edward Snowden, the former NSA technical contractor who recently leaked spying techniques conducted by the agency — show the Redmond-based software giant helped the NSA to circumvent its encryption to address concerns that the agency would be unable to intercept web chats on the new Outlook.com portal. According to the documents, the NSA already had pre-encryption stage access to email on Outlook.com, including Hotmail.

Microsoft also allegedly worked with the FBI this year to allow the NSA easier acces via Prism to its cloud storage service SkyDive, which now has more than 250 million users worldwide.

The Guardian reports nine months after Microsoft bought the video-conferencing service Skype, the NSA announced that a new capability had tripled the amount of Skype video calls collected through Prism. Material collectioed through Prism is routinely shared with the FBI and CIA, with one NSA document describing the program as a “team sport.”

Microsoft responded to the leaking of the documents with a statement saying, “When we upgrade or update products we aren’t absolved from the need to comply with existing or future lawful demands.” The company maintains that it only hands over customer data when there is a specific, legal order from the government to do so. Microsoft also said its compliance team looks at all demands thoroughly and will reject any that they company doesn’t feel is valid.

A spokesperson for the NSA reacted by saying, “The articles describe court-ordered surveillance – and a US company’s efforts to comply with these legally mandated requirements. The U.S. operates its programs under a strict oversight regime, with careful monitoring by the courts, Congress and the Director of National Intelligence. Not all countries have equivalent oversight requirements to protect civil liberties and privacy.”

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Guardian contributed to this report.)

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