Microsoft denies providing NSA widespread access to users

(CBS News) On Thursday, the British newspaper The Guardian published findings from another batch of top-secret documents provided by NSA leaker Edward Snowden that reportedly demonstrate a "scale of co-operation between Silicon Valley and the intelligence agencies" in the U.S.

The report centers on Microsoft's role in working with the FBI and the National Security Agency to decipher encrypted emails and alleges that the software giant helped intelligence authorities collect video and audio conversations through Skype and Microsoft's online chat service.

Microsoft has consistently said the company had no role in providing the NSA with direct access to users' data and reiterated this claim in a statement Thursday, emphasizing their need to comply with lawful requests from the government: "When we upgrade or update products we aren't absolved from the need to comply with existing or future lawful demands."

The company said it coordinates with government agencies in specific cases and "only in response to government demands and we only ever comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers."

John Miller, a former FBI deputy director and CBS News senior correspondent, touched on the details contained in The Guardian's report, explaining that "the core" of the documents described "is that Microsoft shared its encryption program to de-encrypt coded emails."

The revelations are more of a "semantics issue" than a legitimate privacy concern for U.S. citizens, according to Miller, who explained, "Microsoft's point in that [statement] is [to say], 'When we get a lawful court order from the FISA court ... or a national security letter request ... we still have to hand over what they want and the encryption program is part of doing that."

From the government's perspective, working with with Microsoft and other technology companies allows the government to keep up with rapidly emerging technology and communication techniques, Miller said.


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