Microsoft, recoiling from recent revelations about government tracking of user data, made an announcement on Wednesdayof its plans to more closely guard its users from snooping
“Like many others, we are especially alarmed by recent allegations in the press of a broader and concerted effort by some governments to circumvent online security measures – and in our view, legal processes and protections – in order to surreptitiously collect private customer data,” posted Brad Smith, who is General Counsel and Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs for Microsoft.
He went on to add that the confidence of users’ private information and communications has been undermined to such a degree that Microsoft felt it must act to restore that confidence. The user data referred to here is personal information about the user and their activities, including address books, emails, video chats and more.
Encryption, Transparency, and the Law
Most of the action to be taken can be implemented immediately. In the post, Smith elaborates that Microsoft plans to expand encryption, reinforce legal protections of customer data, and enhance the transparency of the software code.
Microsoft already encrypts much of the information that passes through services such as Outlook.com, Office 365, Windows Azure, and SkyDrive. However, there will be an effort to strengthen the existing encryption across all of the services. With regard to reinforcing legal protection, Microsoft plans to notify a user if a legal order related to their data is received, and if a gag order is in place, to challenge it legally. For increased transparency, the plan is to take "additional steps to increase transparency by building on our long-standing program that provides government customers with an appropriate ability to review our source code, reassure themselves of its integrity, and confirm there are no back doors."
Smith concluded, “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. We want to ensure that important questions about government access are decided by courts rather than dictated by technological might. And we’re focused on applying new safeguards worldwide, recognizing the global nature of these issues and challenges. We believe these new steps strike the right balance, advancing for all of us both the security we need and the privacy we deserve.”