Microsoft cooperated with US National Security Agency (NSA) allowing agents to circumvent its own encryption system and spy on citizens’ emails, chats and documents stored in its cloud-based SkyDrive service, the Guardian reported on 12 July.
According to the British newspaper, “the files provided by Edward Snowden illustrate the scale of co-operation between Silicon Valley and the intelligence agencies over the last three years.”
The documents give more details on the Prism programme, which was disclosed by the Guardian the Washington Post in June, and demonstrate that Microsoft helped both the NSA and FBI get around its encryption so that the agency could access Outlook.com and Hotmail.
In addition, Skype worked with these agencies to collect audio and video from its chat service, nine months after it was acquired by the tech giant. Besides, the Prism programme had access to SkyDrive, which has more than 250 million users worldwide.
Latest documents come from NSA’s Special Source Operations (SSO) division, which was described by Snowden as the “crown jewel” of the agency, as it’s responsible for all US communication programmes.
“When we upgrade or update products we aren’t absolved from the need to comply with existing or future lawful demands,” Microsoft said an a statement, and added that it gives customer data “only in response to government demands and we only ever comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers”.
The NSA explains in the files that “this new capability will result in a much more timely collection response” and that its “success is the result of the FBI working for many months with Microsoft to get this tasking and collection solution established.”
“The FBI Data Intercept Technology Unit (DITU) team is working with Microsoft to understand an additional feature in Outlook.com which allows users to create email aliases, which may affect our tasking processes,” says a separate entry of the documents.
Since the Prism programme was discovered last month, companies listed in the files, including Microsoft, Skype, Apple, Google, Facebook and Yahoo, have denied any knowledge about NSA’s project and are lobbying the government to allow them to disclose all data requests made by US’ authorities.