According to a new report from the Guardian, Microsoft enabled the NSA to have special access to user data for its email and chat service. Contrary to earlier and carefully worded denials, it seems the relationship between the surveillance state and Silicon Valley is much deeper than most people know.
Microsoft has collaborated closely with US intelligence services to allow users’ communications to be intercepted, including helping the National Security Agency to circumvent the company’s own encryption, according to top-secret documents obtained by the Guardian.
The files provided by Edward Snowden illustrate the scale of co-operation between Silicon Valley and the intelligence agencies over the last three years. They also shed new light on the workings of the top-secret Prism program, which was disclosed by the Guardian and the Washington Post last month.
One of the key collaborations between Microsoft and the NSA involved circumventing encryption. The NSA would have access to user data in the Outlook.com portal before the encryption process would even begin. Video calls through the service Skype, a company recently acquired by Microsoft, were also subject to state surveillance.
Blanket orders from the secret surveillance court allow these communications to be collected without an individual warrant if the NSA operative has a 51% belief that the target is not a US citizen and is not on US soil at the time. Targeting US citizens does require an individual warrant, but the NSA is able to collect Americans’ communications without a warrant if the target is a foreign national located overseas.
Since Prism’s existence became public, Microsoft and the other companies listed on the NSA documents as providers have denied all knowledge of the program and insisted that the intelligence agencies do not have back doors into their systems.
But the documents reveal the NSA does indeed have a back door in, really a special door. Microsoft reportedly worked with FBI this year to allow the NSA easier access via Prism to its cloud storage service SkyDrive. SkyDrive has 250 million users worldwide.
Many probably assumed this massive collaboration was occurring, but now there are the documents to prove it. I try to be cynical but I can’t keep up.