The latest NSA leaks revealed by the Guardian on Thursday show the vast scope and scale of which Microsoft and its well known affiliates Skype and Outlook.com worked with the U.S. government to enable the interception of the internet communications of millions of people.
Messages from an internal NSA bulletin system seen by the Guardian reveal a working relationship between the intelligence community and the software giant that is "deep and ongoing." Reporting on the messages portray the company's willingness to comply with the NSA's surveillance practices.
The discovery, which was made available through leaks provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, runs counter to claims by Microsoft and the other implicated companies that have denied knowledge of the NSA's dragnet surveillance program known as Prism.
Ironically, as the Guardian points out, Microsoft's latest marketing campaign states: "Your privacy is our priority."
As the Guardian summarizes, the messages show that:
- 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".
The revelations will come as a surprise to Skype users, said ACLU technology expert Chris Soghoian. "In the past, Skype made affirmative promises to users about their inability to perform wiretaps," he said. "It's hard to square Microsoft's secret collaboration with the NSA with its high-profile efforts to compete on privacy with Google."