New documents from the “whistleblower” reveal that Microsoft’s participation in the NSA’s surveillance programs may be more extensive than previously thought. Edward Joseph Snowden is an American former technical contractor for the United States National Security Agency (NSA) and a former employee of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). More recently known as the whistleblower who leaked these and several other details of top-secret U.S. and British government mass surveillance programs to the press.
Snowden claims that Microsoft has worked with US intelligence agencies to provide streamlined access to its services, including Outlook.com, Hotmail, Skype, SkyDrive, and more. Over the last three years, Microsoft has reportedly assisted the FBI and NSA in encryption bypassing its products’ encryption that would otherwise prevent the interception of web chats, emails, and user data. Most notably, the company allowed the agencies to collect video and audio from conversations made through Skype, which it acquired in 2011.
Over the last three years, Microsoft has reportedly assisted the FBI and NSA in encryption bypassing its products’ encryption that would otherwise prevent the interception of web chats, emails, and user data. More particularly, the company allowed the agencies to collect video as well as audio from conversations made through Skype.
Microsoft hasn’t kept quiet on this issue; instead the company defended its actions, saying it was legally obliged to collaborate with the government and not allowed to disclose the partnership.
The main points as summarized in the Guardian:
- 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.
Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee confirmed that widespread collection of telephone records had been going on for years. As for PRISM, on June 8th America’s director of national intelligence, James Clapper, issued a rare public statement acknowledging its existence, but stressing that it is lawful and operates under a secret court that oversees intelligence-gathering. What American has learned over the past few months that the NSA has been eyeing more than just phone records. To date, no one has stated that gaming systems were included but it’s difficult to believe that Microsoft’s gaming business would be immune to government intelligence requests.
National security brass remains steadfast that the programs are tightly run and monitored. But by nature of the conversation, it is proof that it wasn’t. Snowden was not our first leak and will not be our last.
Edward Snowden might never live in the United States as a free man again. Where he may end up was a source of global speculation. In addition to Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia have also said they would accept Snowden; but Venezuela is better poised “to get him safely from Moscow to Latin America and to protect him once he’s there,” says Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who broke the NSA surveillance story. He concludes his analysis by stating, “They’re a bigger country, a stronger country and a richer country with more leverage in international affairs.”
Snowden has exposed workarounds for Hotmail, Skype, and sky drive, and exposed the fact that Microsoft assisted them. Americans have mixed emotions on their stance and it seems portions of government officials are split as well. On June 14, 2013, U.S. federal prosecutors charged Snowden with espionage and theft of government property, conversely, on July 8, 2013, Snowden was honored by a group of retired CIA officers with the Sam Adams Award.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)