Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s pulling overtime when it comes to urging transparency from the government. The company joined a coalition of tech companies which sent a letter urging the government to be more transparent about its surveillance policies today. Earlier this week, it sent its own letter as well. The letter is posted on Microsoft’s website, along with a blog post by Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith.
Microsoft asks for permission to disclose information
The letter is aimed at trying to get the government to allow it to share information. The company has been under fire recently for its participation in the PRISM data mining program operated by the National Security Agency. Microsoft’s letter is addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder.
It requests that he “get involved personally” and says that Microsoft is raising concerns about Constitutional issues in light of the surveillance programs being run by the NSA and other U.S. agencies. The letter even goes so far as to say that “the Constitution itself is suffering” and that it will take the “personal involvement” of either Holder or President Obama “to set things right.”
Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) said when government officials rejected its initial request to be allowed to share more information about the programs, the company went to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for relief. According to the letter, Microsoft is still waiting for a response.
Microsoft discloses the kind of information it is can share
On his blog post, Smith highlighted the letter they sent to Holder and said they want to share “as much information” as they currently can. He notes “significant inaccuracies in the interpretations of leaked government documents reported in the media last week.”
He then goes on to explain what Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) is allowed to say. He said they don’t provide any agencies with “direct access to emails or instant messages” through Outlook. They do comply with legal demands to turn over content for specific accounts if a search warrant or court order is provided.
Smith also said the company does not give government agencies direct access to SkyDrive documents either unless a court order or search warrant has been submitted. For Skype, he said they only respond to legal demands from the government and only for requests about specific accounts or identifiers. He also explained that enhancements made to Skype last year were not done in order to give the government easier access to customer data and messages, as allegations claimed.
When it comes to Enterprise Email and Document storage, Microsoft said it directs officials to the owner of the account and notifies the customer unless legally prevented from doing so.