Microsoft, Too, Says FBI Secretly Surveilling Its Customers

Wired

A breakdown of the number of National Security Letters the FBI has issued to Microsoft targeted accounts (“identifiers”) for user data. Source: Microsoft

Microsoft said the Federal Bureau of Investigation is secretly spying on its customers with so-called National Security Letters that don’t require a judge’s approval, a revelation Thursday that mirrors one Google announced two weeks ago.

Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft announced that the type of accounts the feds are targeting with National Security Letters, warrants or court orders include Hotmail/Outlook.com, SkyDrive, Xbox LIVE, Microsoft Account, Messenger and Office 365.

The announcements by the two tech giants mark the first time U.S. companies have divulged they were secretly responding to National Security Letters and coughing up user data to the bureau without probable-cause warrants. And the Microsoft announcement comes six days after a federal judge declared National Security Letters unconstitutional and gave the President Barack Obama administration 90 days to appeal the ruling.

The NSLs, which have been issued nationwide hundreds of thousands of times, are written demands from the FBI that compel internet service providers, credit companies, financial institutions and businesses like Google and Microsoft to hand over confidential records about their customers, such as subscriber information, phone numbers and e-mail addresses, websites visited and more as long as the FBI says the information is “relevant” to an investigation.

“Like others in the industry, we believe it is important for the public to have access to information about law enforcement access to customer data, particularly as customers are increasingly using technology to communicate and store private information,” Microsoft said.

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