Today the Guardian published a new story on a number of top secret documents which prove that Microsoft--despite its (and other major tech firms recent denials of prior knowledge of the PRISM program--worked closely with the NSA to allow them access to its encrypted messages and services. In the case of Outlook, this access was enabled even before the service went live for the general public in February of this year.
The documents show that:Beyond Outlook, the NSA and FBI also have the ability to collect complete audio and video calls from Skype, as well.
• Microsoft helped the NSA to circumvent its encryption to address concerns that the agency would be unable to intercept web chats on the new Outlook.com portal;
• The agency already had pre-encryption stage access to email on Outlook.com, including Hotmail;
• The company worked with the FBI this year to allow the NSA easier access via Prism to its cloud storage service SkyDrive, which now has more than 250 million users worldwide;
• Microsoft also worked with the FBI's Data Intercept Unit to "understand" potential issues with a feature in Outlook.com that allows users to create email aliases;
Skype, which was bought by Microsoft in October 2011, worked with intelligence agencies last year to allow Prism to collect video of conversations as well as audio;
Material collected through Prism is routinely shared with the FBI and CIA, with one NSA document describing the program as a "team sport".Given the fact that Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Apple, and others all made similar denials of their companies knowledge of or participation in the data collection enabled through PRISM, this revelation appears to be particularly problematic for these companies heretofore disavowals.
In a statement, Microsoft said: "When we upgrade or update products we aren't absolved from the need to comply with existing or future lawful demands." The company reiterated its argument that it provides customer data "only in response to government demands and we only ever comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers".
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.There is a tremendous amount of new material in this report, and I highly encourage everyone to read it in its entirety. Glenn Greenwald continues to demonstrate that his claims that more and more serious revelations would occur were not empty boasting. Moreover, the Guardian's editors have also shown that the decision to release this material in stages has been crucial for allowing enough time for the public to become familiar with these programs, and for government and corporate excuses and dismissals to be subsequently exposed as obscurations and deceit.
Again, these documents were also obtained and leaked by Edward Snowden; I, for one, am continually more thankful--if disturbed--to be learning about the depth and the extent to which these invasive and classified programs extend.
This has got to stop.