While there has been a lot of speculation about just how much technology companies were contributing to government surveillance as part of PRISM, Microsoft has denied any real violations for customers. For awhile they even denied having knowledge that the program existed. But now details have emerged thanks to secret files that paint a very different picture.
The files, which were part of the collection of top secret information leaked by former NSA employee Edward Snowden, show that Microsoft was doing more than submitting to metadata requests. They were going out of their way to work with the government agency and giving them access to huge amounts of information.
Among the revelations was the fact that Microsoft broke the encryption of their new Outlook version before it was ever released to allow the NSA to catch both emails and webchats, along with user data. They also gave access to their SkyDrive, and when they bought out Skype allowed the NSA to collect voice and video calls. In fact, they allegedly boasted about being able to collect three times as many calls as they could before.
Not only is the NSA privy to the data collected, but it is shared between organizations like the CIA and FBI. It is being described as a “team effort”, not only between those agencies, but also from Microsoft itself. Showing that they were not just cooperating, but actively collaborating in the running of PRISM.
This is a stark contrast to their claims, which at every corner have been an attempt to minimize their involvement. Going from denying knowing about the program, to denying giving them anything, to denying giving them anything important. Now they have changed their tune again. In a statement, Microsoft says they were being compelled by the law to cooperate, and nothing else. Making it sound as though they were being bullied into doing so.
But the tone of the secret files, not to mention their constant work to get the NSA around encryption issues, doesn’t seem like bullying. It doesn’t even seem like they were being pushed or facing demands, as they claim. There is a disturbing feeling of buddy-buddy camaraderie in each new report that is hard to ignore.
Somehow I doubt this is going to be an isolated story. I fully expect to hear more about other companies involved in the same kind of manipulation and allowing more access than they will admit.
Source: The Guardian