Microsoft assures international business customers on spying

SAN FRANCISCO Fri Dec 6, 2013 4:33am IST

The Microsoft logo is displayed on a Nokia phone in Vienna September 3, 2013. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter/Files

The Microsoft logo is displayed on a Nokia phone in Vienna September 3, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Heinz-Peter/Files

Related Topics

Stocks

   
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, daughter of Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, adjusts her flower garlands as she campaigns for her mother during an election meeting at Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh April 22, 2014. REUTERS/Pawan Kumar

Election 2014

More than 814 million people — a number larger than the population of Europe — are eligible to vote in the world’s biggest democratic exercise.  Full Coverage 

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) pledged late Wednesday to fight in court any attempt by U.S. intelligence agencies to seize its foreign business customers' data under American surveillance laws, one of a series of steps aimed at reassuring nervous users abroad.

The maker of the world's most popular computer operating system said it had never turned over any such data under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and did not believe that authorities are entitled to the information if it is stored abroad.

"We are committing contractually to not turning it over without litigating that issue," Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith said in an interview.

However, Microsoft has turned over data on non-U.S.-based individuals using its email and other services, as required under FISA laws. Microsoft and other companies are suing the government for the right to disclose how frequently that happens.

Smith also said that Microsoft would dramatically increase the amount of encryption it uses for internal traffic, following similar moves by Google Inc (GOOG.O) and Yahoo Inc (YHOO.O) in the wake of reports that the National Security Agency had tapped into their facilities overseas without oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Smith said Microsoft was caught by surprise by reports in The Washington Post, based on documents leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden, that the NSA had successfully penetrated the other companies and perhaps targeted it as well.

"That really was like an earthquake sending shock waves through our industry," Smith said. Past discussions with federal officials, he said, have always been based on working out what the law required, without any hint that the company might be subjected to attacks based on "technological brute force" instead of legal process.

Addressing another concern, a spokeswoman said the company did not believe it could be ordered to install spyware on a user's machine and that Microsoft would fight any such directive in court.

Microsoft said it would encrypt consumer data that it stores and would work with other email providers to make sure that messages stay secure when they move from a service such as Microsoft's Outlook.com, formerly Hotmail, to another, such as those from Google or Yahoo.

Microsoft said it would also expand the use of regional centers that allow governments worried about U.S. "back doors" in its software to inspect the source code.

The technical measures will move Microsoft close to parity with other major Internet companies in their protections for consumers.

In the cloud business, which provides remote storage and computing power for companies, Microsoft's top rival is Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O). An Amazon Web Services spokeswoman said her employer, like Microsoft, provides tools to help cloud customers encrypt their sensitive data and warns them if legal papers have been served seeking access.

She said she did not know whether papers presented under the intelligence laws, which are secret, had been used to obtain data about international customers.

(Reporting by Joseph Menn; Editing by Ken Wills and Richard Chang)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Legal Trouble

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Hacking Threat

Hacking Threat

All at sea: global shipping fleet exposed to hacking threat.  Full Article 

Mt. Gox Update

Mt. Gox Update

Tokyo Court orders bankruptcy trustee to begin Mt. Gox liquidation .  Full Article 

Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality

U.S. regulators to propose new net neutrality rules in May.  Full Article 

Facebook Results

Facebook Results

Facebook Q1 revenue grows 72 percent on rising mobile ads.  Full Article | Related Story 

Huawei Shrugs

Huawei Shrugs

China's Huawei says reports of NSA spying won't impact growth  Full Article 

Betting on Content

Betting on Content

AOL, Microsoft lure advertisers with TV-style shows.  Full Article 

Restructuring Plans

Restructuring Plans

Zynga's Pincus withdraws from operations amid turnaround.  Full Article 

Security Threat

Security Threat

FBI warns healthcare sector vulnerable to cyber attacks.  Full Article 

Online Streaming

Online Streaming

Amazon grabs rights to stream older HBO shows.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage