Microsoft Lists Five Things U.S. Government Still Needs To Do Regarding Surveillance Practices

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Earlier this week, Brad Smith, General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs at Microsoft blogged about need for the U.S. Government to address important privacy issues and others it has created. One year back, it was revealed that the US government did  surveillance of phone and Internet records, sometimes in partnership with others without any proper government orders. There were reports that the US government even hacked in to data centers of various companies to access data illegally as under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, users have a right to keep their email communications private. 

Microsoft wants the following five things the U.S. government still needs to do:

Recognize that U.S. search warrants end at U.S. borders: We’re concerned about governmental attempts to use search warrants to force companies to turn over the contents of non-U.S. customer communications that are stored exclusively outside the United States. The U.S. government wouldn’t stand for other governments seeking to serve search warrants within American borders to seize the content of U.S. citizens’ emails without going through U.S. legal process. Why should it expect other governments to react any differently?

End bulk collection: President Obama expressed a desire to end bulk collection of data of telephone records. While Microsoft has never received an order related to bulk collection of Internet data, we believe the USA Freedom Act should be strengthened to prohibit more clearly any such orders in the future.

Reform the FISA Court: We need to increase the transparency of the FISA Court’s proceedings and rulings, and introduce the adversarial process that is the hallmark of a fair judicial system. There remains a fundamental truth about legal disputes: a judge who hears only one side of a case is less likely to render a just result. Congress needs to recognize and act on the need for FISA Court reform.

Commit not to hack data centers or cables: We believe our efforts to expand encryption across our services make it much harder for any government to successfully hack data in transit or at rest. Yet more than seven months after the Washington Post first reported that the National Security Agency hacked systems outside the U.S. to access data held by Yahoo! and Google, the Executive Branch remains silent about its views of this practice. Shouldn’t a government that prosecutes foreigners who hack into U.S. companies stop its own employees from hacking into such businesses? Why must we continue to wait for an assurance on this issue?

Continue to increase transparency: Earlier this year, we won the right to publish important data on the number of national security-related demands that we receive. This helped to provide a broader understanding of the overall volume of government orders. It was a good step, but we believe even more detail can be provided without undermining national security.


Read more at Microsoft’s official blog. Microsoft is looking forward to an international effort to restore the trust of Internet users and strike the right balance between privacy and security.

About Author

Pradeep, a Computer Science & Engineering graduate.