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Microsoft Reveals – It Received a Classified National Security Letter

The software giant is no longer prohibited from keeping the classified national security letter a secret. Microsoft has disclosed that it received a secret subpoena from the FBI, which demanded the company turn over personal information on a customer.

The software giant is no longer prohibited from keeping the classified national security letter a secret
The software giant is no longer prohibited from keeping the classified national security letter a secret

According to the Thursday post, Microsoft releases biannual transparency reports. Microsoft is releasing its most recent biannual transparency reports on the Microsoft Transparency Hub. These reports consist of the Law Enforcement Requests Report, U.S. National Security Orders Report, and Content Removal Requests Report.

The subpoena doesn’t require a judge or a court to approve the turning over of the customer’s data.

It’s not known exactly what the FBI wanted from this customer’s accounts. Under existing law, national security letters can get access to all kinds of metadata — but not contents of calls, emails, and other messages, which do require a court order.

Microsoft Says: 

As part of the release of these reports, we are also disclosing a National Security Letter (NSL) we received from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2014, which sought data belonging to a customer of our consumer services. Microsoft is the latest in a series of companies able to disclose an NSL due to provisions in the USA Freedom Act requiring the FBI to review previously issued non-disclosure orders. The NSL was included in the aggregate data of a previous report, but we’re newly able to disclose its content for this reporting period.  “We believe transparency is essential to accountability and building trust in technology. We are committed to upholding these principles in our practices and our reporting.”

The company also disclosed during the latter half of 2016 that it received a larger number of classified orders under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act than it did during the same period a year earlier, but fewer accounts were affected.

Provisions in the Freedom Act passed in 2015 as an intelligence community reform effort after the Snowden revelations, compel the FBI to periodically review the gag orders that are attached to national security letters. That in part resulted in details of the letters becoming public for the first time, including challenges from Facebook, Yahoo, and Cloudflare.

Microsoft has filed several lawsuits against the government related to customer privacy and transparency.

 

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