For the first time ever, Microsoft has released a report that provides data on the number of requests it has received from law enforcement agencies around the world relating to Microsoft's online and cloud services, including Hotmail, Outlook.com, SkyDrive, Xbox LIVE, Microsoft Account, Messenger and Office 365. The Law Enforcement Requests report lists down the requests for 2012 and how Microsoft responded to them.
Joining the likes of Google, Twitter and other such web businesses to release timed transparency reports, Microsoft has promised that it will come up with such reports every six months.
India figures in the list of countries Microsoft provided information to
Of the 56,388 cases where Microsoft disclosed some non-content information to law enforcement agencies, more than 66 percent of these were to agencies only in five countries – the U.S., the United Kingdom, Turkey, Germany and France. Microsoft released information only pertaining to Skype, acquired by the company in October 2011. For the VoIP service, the top five countries accounted for a whopping 81 percent of all requests. These countries were the U.K., the U.S., Germany, France and Taiwan.
In nearly 80 percent of the cases, Microsoft provided “non-content” data, which includes account information such as an email address, a person’s name, country of residence, or gender, or system-generated data such as IP addresses and traffic data. It is only in 2.1 percent of requests that the company disclosed “customer content”, such as the subject line and body of an email exchanged through Outlook.com; or a picture stored on SkyDrive.
“It’s insightful, I believe, to look at the governments to whom customer content was disclosed. Of the 1,558 disclosures of customer content, more than 99 percent were in response to lawful warrants from courts in the United States,” wrote Brad Smith, General Counsel and Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Microsoft, in a blog post. “In fact, there were only 14 disclosures of customer content to governments outside the United States. These were to governments in Brazil, Ireland, Canada and New Zealand.”
As far as India goes, Microsoft revealed that around 400 requests for disclosure of nearly 600 accounts were made by the Indian authorities. Microsoft provided non-content data for 370 of these cases but mentioned that it did not provide information that would have resulted in disclosing of content.
There were 53 requests made for Skype based information by Indian authorities, but Microsoft claimed that it had not complied with any of these requests. Instead, the report says that the software company provided guidance to law enforcement in 10 of these cases.
“As we continue to move forward, Microsoft is committed to respecting human rights, free expression, and individual privacy. We seek to operate all of the services we own in a manner that’s consistent with our Global Human Rights Statement and responsibilities as a member of the Global Network Initiative. Like every company, we are obligated to comply with legally binding requests from law enforcement, and we respect and appreciate the role that law enforcement personnel play in so many countries to protect the public’s safety,” said Microsoft.