Microsoft discloses law enforcement requests for user data
Washington: US tech giant Microsoft has disclosed that it and its main video chat service Skype received more than 75,000 requests last year from government law enforcement agencies in the US and four other countries to provide customer user data.
"In recent months, there has been broadening public interest in how often law enforcement agencies request customer data from technology companies and how our industry responds to these requests," Brad Smith, a Microsoft executive vice president and the company's general counsel, said in a blog post Thursday.
Like others in the industry, including Google and Twitter, Smith said Microsoft released the information as part of a broader "commitment to transparency" in the high-tech industry.
"We are releasing publicly the total number of requests we receive from law enforcement in countries around the world and the number of potentially affected accounts identified in those requests," Smith said.
In its report, the company said Microsoft and Skype had received in 2012 a total of 75,378 "criminal law enforcement requests" for customer information, which potentially impacted 137,424 accounts.
The data requested includes accounts associated with Microsoft and its major online product brands such as Hotmail, Outlook.com, Xbox LIVE and Skype. Microsoft, which acquired Skype in October 2011, said Skype data was reported separately as the company is governed by the laws of Luxembourg and the European Union.
According to the report, approximately 80 percent of the information provided to federal agencies was what is commonly referred to as "non-content data" which includes only information like usernames, e-mail addresses, gender, geographic location, IP addresses, and dates and times of online traffic.
Only 2.1 percent - 1,558 requests - resulted in the disclosure of customer content, the Redmond, Washington-based tech giant said.
The content disclosed included text and photographs from emails and data pulled from SkyDrive, Microsoft's cloud computing service.
"Like every company we are obligated to comply with legally binding requests from law enforcement, and we respect and appreciate the role that law enforcement personnel play in so many countries to protect the public's safety," Smith said in his blog post.
"As we continue to move forward, Microsoft is committed to respecting human rights, free expression, and individual privacy."
Microsoft said it plans to update the report every six months.