It is common practice for corporations to charge the government for data requests. There is a cost associated with maintaining records and having a legal departments comply with thousands of government requests over a year. A charge for a request is a balance that ensures governments do not go overboard in data requests. In fact the government is suing Sprint for over-charging the government for data requests.
Documents released by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) show that what appear to be invoices and emails between Microsoft’s Global Criminal Compliance team and the FBI’s Digital Intercept Technology Unit (DITU), and purport to show exactly how much money Microsoft charges DITU, in terms of compliance costs, when DITU provides warrants and court orders for customers’ data. The SEA has been targeting Microsoft and mostly recently gained access to the Skype social media accounts.
In December 2012, for instance, Microsoft emailed DITU a PDF invoice for $145,100, broken down to $100 per request for information, the documents appear to show. In August 2013, Microsoft allegedly emailed a similar invoice, this time for $352,200, at a rate of $200 per request. The latest invoice provided, from November 2013, is for $281,000.
None of the technologists or lawyers consulted for this story thought that Microsoft would be in the wrong to charge the FBI for compliance, especially considering it’s well within the company’s legal right to charge “reasonable expenses.” Instead, they said, the documents are more of an indication of just how frequently the government wants information on customers. Some of the DITU invoices show hundreds of requests per month.
A spokesperson for Microsoft commented
“as pursuant to U.S. law, Microsoft is entitled to seek reimbursement for costs associated with compliance with a valid legal demands. … To be clear, these reimbursements cover only a portion of the costs we actually incur to comply with legal orders.”
Microsoft may want to consider a more secure system for communicating with the FBI.
I find it interesting that some media outlets are portraying Microsoft as the only company to ever charge the government. Of course this is not the case and all companies including all the major telecoms do this. This has been known for some time. But of course this story conveniently fits the narrative that Microsoft is evil. However, this is the first time we have leaked documents showing a breakdown of charges.
Source: Daily Dot