Edward Snowden exposed that Microsoft worked hand-in-hand with the United States government and handed the NSA access to encrypted messages and built a series of backdoors into Outlook.com, Skype, and SkyDrive to ease difficulties in accessing online communications.
Over the last three years, Microsoft has reportedly assisted the FBI and NSA in encryption bypassing its products' encryption that would otherwise prevent the interception of web chats, emails, and user data.
The documents obtained by The Guardian show that:
- 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;
- Material collected through Prism is routinely shared with the FBI and CIA, with one NSA document describing the program as a "team sport".
"To be clear, Microsoft does not provide any government with blanket access to SkyDrive, Outlook.com, Skype or any Microsoft product," the company said in a statement to ABC News. "We have clear principles which guide the response across our entire company to government demands for customer information for both law enforcement and national security issues. First, we take our commitments to our customers and to compliance with applicable law very seriously, so we provide customer data only in response to legal processes."
With all of the recent revelations about NSA surveillance, news of Microsoft's involvement shouldn't come as a huge surprise. The United States government has since indicted Snowden under the Espionage Act, and he has requested asylum from no fewer than 20 foreign nations.