WASHINGON: Microsoft cooperated with the United States to give the National Security Agency (NSA) access to the internet giant’s encrypted data, news leaks by US whistleblower Edward Snowden show.
According to the Guardian reports, the top secret documents show that Microsoft gave the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FIA) and the NSA access to Skype video calls, Outlook and Hotmail accounts.
The main points as summarized in the Guardian:
• Microsoft 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;
• The agency already had pre-encryption stage access to email on Outlook.com, including Hotmail;
• The company worked with the FBI this year to allow the NSA easier access via Prism to its cloud storage service SkyDrive, which now has more than 250 million users worldwide;
• Microsoft also worked with the FBI’s Data Intercept Unit to “understand” potential issues with a feature in Outlook.com that allows users to create email aliases;
• Skype, which was bought by Microsoft in October 2011, worked with intelligence agencies last year to allow Prism to collect video of conversations as well as audio.
The company had previously denied helping the NSA. Microsoft said in a statement on Thursday that it only gave up customer data when it was done through government requests.
“To be clear, Microsoft does not provide any government with blanket or direct access to SkyDrive, Outlook.com, Skype or any Microsoft product,” the company said.
“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.”
Former NSA contractor Snowden, who is charged with espionage, is reportedly staying at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport.
Earlier documents disclosed by Snowden revealed massive surveillance by the NSA including two major spying programs, one for gathering US phone records and another, called PRISM, for tracking the use of US-based web servers by American citizens and other nationals.
Other documents have also shown that the US government spied on European Union offices and Brazilian companies and individuals.