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Microsoft Disclosed User Content in 10% of U.S. Law Enforcement Requests


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Microsoft supplied user content in response to 10.8 percent of the law enforcement requests it received from United States agencies in the second half of 2013. The company got more than 5,600 requests from U.S. agencies in the last six months of the year, and in the vast majority of those–68 percent–it only supplied subscriber or transaction data.


The newest transparency report from Microsoft shows that in most cases, the company supplied some information in response to law enforcement requests, but it usually was simple transaction or subscriber information. Overall, Microsoft got more than 35,000 requests from law enforcement agencies around the world in the second half of 2013, and it supplied user content in 2.32 percent of those cases. Microsoft rejected outright 3.4 percent of requests.

“These reports are part of our ongoing commitment to transparency on these issues. We believe that public availability of such data is important to our customers as well as to an increasingly broad community of advocates and stakeholders working to find the appropriate balance of policies that promote public safety and personal data privacy,” John Frank, Deputy General Counsel and Vice President, Legal and Corporate Affairs at Microsoft, wrote in an analysis of the data.

“Overall, the data in this latest Law Enforcement Requests Report shared today is largely consistent with prior reports.”

The new report doesn’t include information on National Security Letters or FISA court demands. Microsoft, along with several other technology companies, sued the federal government last year for the right to publish more information on the volume and kind of secret demands they get for user data and content and has begun publishing that data separately.

About 80 percent of the requests for user content data came from the U.S., Microsoft said, and most of the law enforcement requests in general come from a small handful of countries, including Turkey, the U.K., Germany, France and the U.S. Interestingly, Turkey sent nearly as many requests to Microsoft–5,330–as the U.S. did. Germany sent 5,200 requests, France sent 4,627 and the U.K. sent 4,213. By comparison, Canada sent 47, Israel sent 15 and Liechtenstein sent one.

Microsoft officials said most of the requests the company receives are for its free consumer services, such as Hotmail or Outlook.com, and very few relate to its commercial offerings.

“As our law enforcement requests reports have shown, the overwhelming majority of law enforcement requests seek information related to our free consumer services. By comparison, we have received few law enforcement requests for data associated with use of our commercial services by our enterprise customers. The law enforcement requests we receive relate to a variety of criminal activity, ranging from kidnappings and suicide threats to terrorism, narcotics trafficking, fraud, and cybercrime,” the company said.

In the first half of 2013 Microsoft received more than 7,000 requests from U.S. law enforcement and supplied user content data in almost an identical percentage of them, 10.7 percent.


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