Microsoft and other companies caught up in the Prism scandal disclosed by Edward Snowden, have repeatedly asked that they be allowed to explain to their users the specifics of what they knew and the scale of the NSA spy scandal. In mid-June, Microsoft petitioned the federal government for permission to speak to the public to clarify how many national security requests that they and other companies had received.
So far that request has fallen on deaf ears, unless of course you’re talking about those listening at the NSA.
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Brad Smith of Microsoft Demands Release
In a Catch-22 that would make Joseph Heller proud, Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s Brad Smith, general counsel and executive vice president of corporate affairs, stated yesterday that the reports contained “significant inaccuracies” in their interpretation of allegedly leaked government documents, but that as much as the federal government acknowledges these inaccuracies they have also repeatedly stopped the company from speaking openly about them.
“Today we have asked the Attorney General of the United States to personally take action to permit Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) and other companies to share publicly more complete information about how we handle national security requests for customer information,” said Smith.
“We believe the U.S. Constitution guarantees our freedom to share more information with the public, yet the Government is stopping us,” he added, saying the government is yet to respond to requests filed June 19 for permission to discuss the “volume of national security requests we have received”.
He went on, “There are significant inaccuracies in the interpretations of leaked government documents reported in the media last week. We have asked the Government again for permission to discuss the issues raised by these new documents, and our request was denied by government lawyers.”
Microsoft Accused of Giving Unfettered Access to NSA
The reports of which he speaks are those that came out last week that suggest that Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) gave unfettered access to the NSA to Microsoft Outlook accounts, its cloud storage system SkyDrive, and Skype video calls. (Microsoft acquired Skype in 2011, something that Cisco still remains committed to blocking.)
Without quoting Mr. Smith directly, he did vehemently deny suggestions that Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) would ever simply hand over this data outside of the law. For more quotes from Mr. Smith check out this piece by CVG.
He did, however, make it clear that Microsoft was forced to modify how SkyDrive works in order to comply with legal requests.
“In 2013 we made changes to our processes to be able to continue to comply with an increasing number of legal demands [from] governments worldwide.”
“None of these changes provided any government with direct access to SkyDrive. Nor did any of them change the fact that we still require governments to follow legal processes when requesting customer data.”