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Microsoft gave NSA access to users’ Skype calls & emails – report

Friday, 12th July 2013 10:22 GMT By Dave Cook

Microsoft is said to have given the US National Security Agency access to its users’ Skype calls, Outlook emails and SkyDrive contents for the past three years. A new report based on leaked documents suggests that the company offered the data as part of a US government surveillance initiative called Prism.

The Guardian’s report is said to be derived from ‘top-secret documents’ acquired by the paper, that suggest the private information and conversations of the public were shared between Microsoft, US intelligence firms and a number of Silicon Valley companies.

Documents provided by an informant show that Microsoft helped the NSA bypass certain encryption measures, allowing the firm to monitor Outlook.com web chats, and that the surveillance agency had pre-encryption access to Outlook and Hotmail messages.

In one document, the routine sharing of collected data through Prism with the CIA, FBI, NSA and other authorities was referred to as a “team sport”.

It is also claimed that Microsoft worked with the FBI and NSA to allow access to the company’s cloud-based SkyDrive service, and the contents of user accounts. The FBI also worked with Microsoft to better understand the creation ad use of Outlook email aliases.

In July, the NSA is said to have boasted that new capabilites had allowed it to triple the amount of Skype calls it was collecting as part of the Prism initiative.

The leaked documents come at a time where Silicon Valley companies are said to be at odds with the Obama administration, and are urging congress to allow them freedom to disclose the extent of their data capture and cooperation with the NSA, in order to ease privacy concerns. Executives in several tech companies have suggested that this collaboration with the NSA is driven through what the Guardian calls ‘legal compulsion’.

In a statement, Microsoft said, “When we upgrade or update products we aren’t absolved from the need to comply with existing or future lawful demands.” It stressed that it discloses customer data with agencies like the NSA, “only in response to government demands and we only ever comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers”.

If you want the full story – and there is a lot more to say – check out the Guardian’s report on the matter here.

Thanks CVG.

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51 Comments

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  1. Max Payne

    *SHOCKER*

    #1 9 months ago
  2. Telepathic.Geometry

    I wonder how much heat a company like MS will take for this?

    #2 9 months ago
  3. Djoenz

    That last part and Microsoft’s statement was BS and to think its been going on for 3 years. I can understand focusing on terrorists and suspects but this is troublesome man.

    Dutch companies, internet providers etc. are participating as well, but most are not being forward. Also its not known which agencies in my country asked for the intel of assumingly normal civillians.

    Information is power and the elite can do what they want. Rights we dont have we just have to listen and obey.

    #3 9 months ago
  4. Talkar

    I can understand where MS is coming from, if a government as big as the US one is forcing you to give them some data, i would do it too. I don’t think MS can afford to do otherwise.

    If anything i blame the US government for this shite.

    #4 9 months ago
  5. Judicas

    So conspiracy theory stuff is video game news now? Weird direction to take this site…

    #5 9 months ago
  6. Dave Cook

    @5 Skype and SkyDrive are features of Xbox 360, hence, it’s gaming news.

    #6 9 months ago
  7. For Blood

    @5

    It was feminist news the other day.

    #7 9 months ago
  8. SplatteredHouse

    How’s it a conspiracy theory when the documents have been obtained, studied and information presented? (short of the documents themselves not being pictured) If they’re doing that to SKYPE users. DESPITE assurances to the contrary, what belief should any X1 user have that they aren’t in the same boat?

    On a 51% assurety belief that you aren’t American or on US soil, warrant be damned, you’re just fair game? Sod that!

    @3 Microsoft aren’t being straight-up about this at all. They can be regularly seen to be trying to duck and run.

    #8 9 months ago
  9. Beukwama

    http://imgur.com/JqcWd6i

    #9 9 months ago
  10. mreko3230

    @4 That’s the thing. I remember Google was holding out for a long time on handing over certain data and they were basically told to either do it or there would be charges brought against google for obstruction.

    #10 9 months ago
  11. Djoenz

    @Dave Cook

    I have the utmost respect for you because you are involved with all members and bother to take the time to explain/reply to everyone including people that comment irrelevant stuff.

    Im ashamed on the other hand you even have to defend yourselves.
    You dont have to explain. You guys decide what to post and what not. He decided to post nonsense but just ignore those idiots!

    #11 9 months ago
  12. mistermogul

    Prism was made public last month right?

    #12 9 months ago
  13. Belazur

    Typical Microsft….. smh

    [MICROSOFT] Revealed: How Microsoft handed the NSA access to encrypted messages. Kinect conspiracies maybe true.
    Link: http://m.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/11/microsoft-nsa-collaboration-user-data

    And another good article regarding the MS/NSA/Spy topic: Why “I Have Nothing to Hide” Is the Wrong Way to Think About Surveillance.
    Link: http://www.wired.com/opinion/2013/06/why-i-have-nothing-to-hide-is-the-wrong-way-to-think-about-surveillance/

    #13 9 months ago
  14. ps3fanboy

    the micro$hafts still keep digging and digging…

    *flushes micro$hafts down the galaxy’s most evil rancid smelling , darkest , bile , filthiest , stench ridden , turd filled toilets*

    #14 9 months ago
  15. redwood

    @14 you really flush that toilet a lot man

    #15 9 months ago
  16. The_Red

    I’m not too familiar with US or UN laws but couldn’t this become the base of some serious law suits?

    #16 9 months ago
  17. actuallyisnotafox

    am i the only one who thinks xbox one would of continued this? i dunno the whole always on, kinect is always listening, hey we have skype too you know, just seems to fishy :p

    #17 9 months ago
  18. DSB

    @3 It’s been going on for at least six years.

    #18 9 months ago
  19. ps3fanboy

    @15 redwood, i flush it hard everyday. as long there is a micro$hafts, flushing the toilets is needed… just saying.

    #19 9 months ago
  20. Lengendaryboss

    @Redwood
    Well he has to because he uses it daily in that place he calls home. :)

    @5
    Please shut up, the forum post i made focused on this exact problem.

    #20 9 months ago
  21. Lengendaryboss

    @19
    I think that excuse is covering you rather than MS.

    #21 9 months ago
  22. Telepathic.Geometry

    Yeah Dave, don’t bother justifying the existence of a post to some internet dood. You decide…

    It’s not like you’re not so busy to not have the time to post extra unnecessary shit.

    As far as I’m concerned, anything to do with games, and by extension media, consumer electronics, and the big technology should be represented here, and fuck anyone who doesn’t like it.

    #22 9 months ago
  23. Dave Cook

    @11 & 22 thanks guys, I appreciate it. Sometimes I wish I had a little brick wall on my desk to headbutt in times of utter fuckwittery.

    My birthday’s next month, I could make it a treat to myself.

    #23 9 months ago
  24. MidlifeAxe

    @11 & @22

    Amen to that.

    #24 9 months ago
  25. Fin

    Fuckin’ hell.

    Before this whole NSA/Prism thing, privacy concerns with X1/Kinect 2.0 didn’t really concern me.
    They certainly do now.

    #25 9 months ago
  26. kingy

    @17 I agree with you and thought the same thing if the US government said turn the kinect’s on they would say Ok ,it must be a shitty situation for Microsoft to be in unless they are benefiting some how from assisting them but that’s even more conspiracy theories

    #26 9 months ago
  27. sh4dow

    @4

    Exactly. All this MS bashing in this regard is so ridiculous.
    There are many awful things MS does but in this case, they are hardly in a place of power. After all, even most countries bow to the USA. So a company – never mind how huge it is – is supposed to take a stand? Yeah right…

    #27 9 months ago
  28. jeffb01

    @27

    I don’t think that people are bashing MS for complying as much as for forcing a camera and microphone into our living room (kinnect mandatory)…

    #28 9 months ago
  29. Tavarish

    @2 I would say non, outside of consumer base, if they can proof that “We just did what government told us to do and keep it secret!” -angle. They lose fuckton of goodwill because of this for sure.

    #29 9 months ago
  30. bradk825

    If you want to do business in the US you have to comply with US law. Pretty simple. ISPs, phone companies etc that have your information or access to it will do the same thing if it’s demanded of them. Nothing you do on the internet is truly private.

    Personally I think the only people who should be concerned about the government watching them are those on a watch list. Those on a watch list should be further concerned if they deserve to be on it.

    #30 9 months ago
  31. MCTJim

    http://www.theverge.com/2013/6/6/4403868/nsa-fbi-mine-data-apple-google-facebook-microsoft-others-prism

    #31 9 months ago
  32. Tavarish

    @30 I think it’s kinda sad when people start saying stuff like that. “It’s ok to get anal probed and give government blanket rights to do what ever they want because you don’t have anything hide!” thinking is just terrifying at its own level.

    #32 9 months ago
  33. MCTJim

    @32 no sir, I dont like it.

    its getting out of hand really…wont be long before a “King” is crowned here :(

    uh oh..may have the nsa watching me now for that comment..LOL

    #33 9 months ago
  34. bradk825

    Well 32, I don’t live in the US so I guess I have nothing to worry about either way. I just don’t think the average person is being spied on though. Everyone is in a panic that the NSA is going to listen to their calls. If you are not on a terrorist watch list, who the fuck do you think you are that the NSA gives a flaming shit what you’re talking to grandma about?

    Do you object to companies providing a client list when served with a warrant signed by a judge? Something that’s been in US law for a long, long time? It’s the same basic principle. Google, Apple, Facebook, MS, and I’m sure your beloved Sony too *gasp* when served with a perfectly legal demand for information will sing like a canary. Otherwise they would face hefty fines and somebody would probably be charged with obstruction.

    If you don’t like this stuff, you have to make it an election issue, not bitch about it on the internet and start quoting 1984. MS can’t stop giving information because you don’t like it any more than your landlord could decline to give police access to your apartment if they have a warrant to search it.

    #34 9 months ago
  35. Tavarish

    @34 Even us Europeans have shit to fear for from US. If you haven’t noticed US has rather blanket rights all around the world and NSA’s Prism wasn’t “just about US”. It was, is, basically whole fucking world. I personally think that it’s naive thinking, to some extent, to think that US’s “War on Terror” and what comes with it doesn’t concern Europeans or rest of the world.

    Sure e.g. EU can say “Naughty US! Naughty to kidnap our citizens and/or listen to our calls!” etc., but I think we have seen enough that shit doesn’t matter in the end. US is police country of the world currently, even when theirs hold has been slipping for many reasons.

    Also maybe some company should “Fuck no..” no e.g. US government when they walk in with blanket warrant from judge or Patriot Act (basically you don’t need judge or even probable cause) and battle it out. Government shouldn’t have unlimited reach and blanket rights just because people are afraid of some Abdul in Afghanistan cave.

    What we fear more in the end? That random terrorist that may or may not exist OR governments that are getting more and more freedoms to do what ever they fuck please and can’t be hold responsible?

    This whole NSA + Prism debacle plays into this, in large way.

    #35 9 months ago
  36. stretch215

    @34 exactly +100000. You’re talking sense though, half of these zealots won’t understand.

    #36 9 months ago
  37. stretch215

    @35 no….just no. I’m laughing quite loudly reading your post, actually. No company (especially a US company) can “just say fuck no” to the US gov. It doesn’t work like that, and if your country is allied with the US, this probably applies to companies in your country too.

    #37 9 months ago
  38. bradk825

    Please tell me very specifically what impact PRISM might have on my life as a private Canadian citizen. No vague “scary thoughts” or “grave implications,” tell me something specific that can happen to me. Give it a try.

    While you’re at it you can maybe explain what might me a target in the first place. What causes a person with no connections to terrorism, crime, government or Justin Bieber to get the NSA interested in them?

    #38 9 months ago
  39. Ireland Michael

    The problem with this whole PRISM thing is not so much that the program exists, but the sweeping freedom that the government has to use it. There are some very vague rules defining the circumstances under which the NSA can access people’s logs, and frankly put, I don’t trust the fuckers in control of the system.

    It has nothing to do with conspiracies.

    #39 9 months ago
  40. stretch215

    Of course this is no conspiracy. The patriot act has been around for awhile, so it’s not exactly “breaking news” either. I can’t believe people (especially americans) are surprised at this.

    #40 9 months ago
  41. Phoenixblight

    @40

    You and me both. What were people expecting that Bush enacted the Patriot Act and the government wasn’t going to use it? Riiiiiight.

    #41 9 months ago
  42. SplatteredHouse

    http://hemlismessenger.wordpress.com/ Pirate Bay co-founder successfully crowdfunded in the last few days an iOS/Android secure messaging app, in a day and a half.

    #42 9 months ago
  43. koopa

    NSA= secret police. People: plz take my freedom, but keep us safe….Then Boston happen, wtf

    #43 9 months ago
  44. Cobra951

    @38: OK, here goes. If you communicate with someone in the US, because of business or friendship, who has communicated directly or indirectly with someone in Afghanistan, who in turn may have a rogue terrorist relative he’s called once, you could end up exposed to Big Brother. That’s my college try anyway.

    #44 9 months ago
  45. stretch215

    I guess at the end of the day the question is: “If all this *snooping* can prevent an attack, or even save one life, is it worth it?” This is the subject up for debate in more rational environments, not “MS/Sony sucks”. This is SO mich bigger than that.

    #45 9 months ago
  46. DSB

    The thing that makes Microsoft look bad isn’t that they complied with the NSA, because they really have no say in that.

    The problem is that they went above and beyond in helping the NSA, while people rely on them and other companies to protect their privacy.

    Arguably other companies look a lot better for having to be forced to give up that data.

    But it’s a lose/lose either way. PRISM is just the tip of the iceberg. Everything else is being intercepted too, PRISM was just a way to get a few big companies to make it easier for ‘em. Streamlining what was already going on.

    #46 9 months ago
  47. Ireland Michael

    It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

    #47 9 months ago
  48. jaysea

    The real issue here isn’t Microsoft– it’s the NSA and this administration. Not the first time we’ve heard of widespread data seizure.

    #48 9 months ago
  49. sh4dow

    @48

    “This administration”?
    As you yourself said – “not the first time”. And that includes many administrations before this one. It’s not like spying on citizens, data misuse and whatnot would be some new, innovative thing. A significant amount of people fighting that – now THERE would be something new.

    @ 28

    Yeah but there are plenty of articles to go around where that would be more appropriate to complain about than this one here ;)
    Besides… I’m not up to date because XB1 is out of the question for me but if they didn’t drop that shit by now they’re not going to be bothered by on-going complaining. People have voiced their opinion plenty of times, so now it’s time to act in accordance with those views and not buy.

    #49 9 months ago
  50. codesnake

    Well , No surprise at all!
    US gov have been doing this shit over decades ! Privacy means a nightmare in us . they track your movement by gps and cctv face and body identification , they archive your mails and have access to all your voice calls .They see you through your web cam and video call when ever they want .They want to know & control every thing about every body. & then they label this spying as ANTI TERRORISM ACTIVITIES !?!?!?! But US gov even is no match for countries like IRAN since they hacked & hijacked comodo secure certification & taken the control of US most advanced UAV in a second ! Don’t even think about Russia or China . Anti terrorism is a joke ! they even couldn’t stop a baby to kill his parents or friends in school . who did the sep 11th ! some stupid afqan terrorist ? which are now supported by US in syria ? who believes ben laden did sep 11th ! which country had started wars in iraq & afqanistan & syria and supports israel against palestain ?! Who did wipe hiroshima & nakazaki in just a second by atomic bombs ? who is the real terrorist ?
    US gov wants an eye over every one cause when people realise what did US gov have done to them , they wont remain silence , as they showed in wall st movement . Then US will want to have the hammer of silence to brute every one every where . to remain in power for ever!

    #50 9 months ago
  51. backup

    99.99 % of PC gamers are pirates ==== fact

    #51 9 months ago