Microsoft responds to backdoor government snooping and will enhance encryption

MicrosoftSpeaking directly to consumers who are concerned about their lack of privacy in the wake of the NSA’s continued surveillance, Microsoft released a statement on their official blog this morning. They are officially speaking out about this, and other privacy matters related to government spying.

Last week we reported that media outlets had received new Snowden cables describing NSA efforts to circumvent encryption and use backdoor methods to listen in on conversation from both Google and Yahoo.

In particular, they addressed the allegations of the government’s attempts (and success) in gaining backdoor access to user data and conversations.

If true, these efforts threaten to seriously undermine confidence in the security and privacy of online communications. Indeed, government snooping potentially now constitutes an “advanced persistent threat,” alongside sophisticated malware and cyber attacks, General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs Brad Smith said.

This is the first time the company has come right out and described the spying as malicious and dangerous for users on the internet. It is also reflective of the tone of many other companies who have been more subtle in their public dissent against such efforts.

But they have a plan that goes beyond the previously reported plans of strengthening encryption. Brad Smith continued:

In light of these allegations, we’ve decided to take immediate and coordinated action in three areas:

· We are expanding encryption across our services.
· We are reinforcing legal protections for our customers’ data.
· We are enhancing the transparency of our software code, making it easier for customers to reassure themselves that our products do not contain back doors.

The promise of more transparency is a surprising move. Tech companies are often jealousy guarded with such information as source codes, and big corporations are even less open to letting people peek behind the curtain. This is one of the biggest post-Ballmer changes the company has so far made, and shows a new direction that makes them a direct opponent to the NSA and other agencies.

But what is the true aim of Microsoft in all of this?

Ultimately, we’re sensitive to the balances that must be struck when it comes to technology, security and the law. We all want to live in a world that is safe and secure, but we also want to live in a country that is protected by the Constitution.

That seems clear enough. With Microsoft taking these steps, you can bet others are going to follow. If not in the name of outrage, then at least to keep them on par with a major competitor.

Source: Microsoft Blog

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