Microsoft Received 37,196 Gov Requests For Data Impacting 66,539 Accounts In First Half Of 2013

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Today Microsoft reported the number of data requests it received from various law enforcement agencies around the world in the first half of (calendar) 2013: 37,196. Those requests dealt with, at most, 66,539 accounts.

Microsoft reported that in full-year 2012 (calendar) it received 75,378 requests that impacted no more than 137,424 accounts. So, requests this year are roughly on par with the year prior. Unless something dramatic changes, the full-year 2013 (calendar) tally should end as roughly commensurate with 2012.

According to Microsoft, only 2.19 percent of requests “result[ed] in the disclosure of customer content data.” However, of those requests in which content data was released, 92 percent of those requests were from the United States government. So, if you have data on Microsoft services, likely the only government that can force access to that content is the United States. Take that as you will.

Total impacted accounts? Around 0.01 percent.

Microsoft remains under strict government order to not list certain information regarding data requests. The company included a slightly bewildering paragraph in its report, in which it states that national security orders are not included, though National Security Letters are listed as part of the aggregate information:

Unfortunately, we are not currently permitted to report detailed information about the type and volume of any national security orders (e.g. FISA Orders and FISA Directives) that we may receive so any national security orders we may receive are not included in this report. We have summarized, per government direction, the aggregate volume of National Security Letters we have received.

Microsoft and Google are currently suing the government to allow them greater rights to be transparent regarding legal requests of their data and customer content. Microsoft’s motive was articulated well:

The United States has long been admired around the world for its leadership in promoting free speech and open discussion.  We benefit from living in a country with a Constitution that guarantees the fundamental freedom to engage in free expression unless silence is required by a narrowly tailored, compelling Government interest.

When the government forces companies such as Microsoft to hand over user data it directly harms their relationship with their customers. Naturally, the more they can disclose the better, as it clears the air in a way, and cuts away at their own culpability.

Finally, here’s Microsoft’s generated charting of United States government requests for its users’ data:

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Top Image Credit: Amit Chattopadhyay