July 17, 2013
Microsoft Asks Dept Of Justice Attorney General For PRISM Transparency
Enid Burns for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Days after the revelation that Microsoft provided access of encrypted data to the government under the NSA's PRISM campaign, the Redmond, Washington-based software giant has sent a letter directly to US attorney general Eric Holder asking him to allow the company to share information with its users.
Microsoft wants to share information with its users about the way it handles national security requests for customer data. It came out last week that Microsoft was among the internet data companies that the NSA tapped to provide information. The NSA's PRISM program looks at activity to identify patterns and raise flags when a user visits certain sites or makes actions deemed suspicious.
Details of Microsoft's requests were outlined in a blog post written by Brad Smith, general counsel and executive vice president of legal and corporate affairs at Microsoft.
"Today we have asked the Attorney General of the United States to personally take action to permit Microsoft and other companies to share publicly more complete information about how we handle national security requests for customer information. We believe the U.S. Constitution guarantees our freedom to share more information with the public, yet the Government is stopping us. For example, Government lawyers have yet to respond to the petition we filed in court on June 19, seeking permission to publish the volume of national security requests we have received. We hope the Attorney General can step in to change this situation," Smith wrote in the blog post.
The letter to Eric Holder was published on the Microsoft website. The letter defends Microsoft's compliance with the NSA requests, and asks for the government to cooperate with Microsoft in its requests.
"Since the initial leak of NSA documents, Microsoft has engaged constructively with the Department of Justice, the FBI, and other members of the Intelligence Community on the ground rules governing our ability to address these issues and the leaked documents publicly. WE have appreciated the good faith in which the government has dealt with us during this challenging period. But we're not making adequate progress. When the Department and FBI denied our requests to share more information, we went to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) on June 19 to seek relief. Almost a month later, the Government is still considering its response to our motion," the letter said.
Microsoft is seeking to share with the public the process by which the government requests information, and how that information is shared with the government. The request was made from Microsoft, however Microsoft is championing the issue for other Internet firms. If the request is granted, Microsoft will be able to share information on the process, but so will Google, Yahoo! and other Internet firms that have had to turn over data under the PRISM requests.
The appeal speaks to the rights of corporations and individuals.
"This opposition and these delays are serving poorly the public, the Government itself, and most importantly, the Constitutional principles that we all put first and foremost," the letter said.
Smith shared some details on Microsoft's compliance ahead of Holder's permission, breaking out individual services provided by Microsoft. Details on what information is, or is not, provided from Outlook.com, SkyDrive, Skype calls, and Enterprise Email and document storage are broken out in Smith's blog post. It is made clear that the data provided is based on activities and not specifics. "We do not provide any government with direct access to emails or instant messages. Full Stop," Smith notes, regarding Outlook.com.