How Microsoft Made Outlook.com Web Chats Available to NSA

More leaks from Edward Snowden‘s stolen files reveal just how cooperative Silicon Valley companies have been with the National Security Agency, which is putting firms participating in the government’s Prism program in an increasingly uncomfortable and defensive position.

Let’s take Microsoft, which coincidentally announced a major reorg today designed to make the software firm more competitive and nimble.  The Guardian newspaper reveals that Microsoft helped the NSA navigate around its encryption so web chats on the Outlook.com system can be intercepted for Prism.

Today’s scoops shed more light on the relationship between Prism companies and government that were first disclosed last month. Among the revelations today:

  • As part of Prism, Microsoft worked with the FBI this year to allow the government easier access to SkyDrive, the company’s cloud storage service that has more than 250 million users;

  • Skype, a Microsoft subsidiary since 2011, worked with intelligence agencies to allow Prism to collect video and audio of conversations;

  • Microsoft worked with the FBI’s Data Intercept Unit to “understand” potential issues in a feature of Outlook.com that allows users to create email aliases;

  • One NSA document describes Prism a “team sport,” with information collected regularly shared with the FBI and the CIA.

Since the disclosure of Prism, tech companies have been lobbying to reveal more fully the extent of their cooperation to allay their customers’ privacy concerns.

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.”

When the program was first revealed, most tech companies declared no knowledge of its existence.

Readers, do these new revelations make you more concerned about your private information being shared with the government?

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