Microsoft Discloses Details of Over 37K Surveillance Data Requests In First Six Months of 2013

If there’s anything positive to take away from this summer’s NSA spying scandal, it might be the increased transparency of major tech companies, as Microsoft has its latest Law Enforcement Requests report for the first 6 months of 2013. Of course, a downside is that these companies still aren’t allowed to report requests from the FISA shadow court, so we have no way of knowing what agencies like the NSA are culling from Microsoft’s vast user base.

But for what it’s worth, here are the numbers, sans FISA data: Microsoft received 37,196 requests in the first half of this year, which potentially impacted a total of 66,539 user accounts; those figures include Skype. (In 2012, the year total was 75,378 requests impacting 137,424 accounts.)

Microsoft Law Enforcement Requests report, January-June 2013
U.S. Law Enforcement Request data, January-June 2013

Microsoft says that it disclosed no data at all in 21% of the requests, and customer content data was only disclosed in 2.19% of the requests. 73% of the requests came from five countries: the U.S., Turkey, Germany, the UK, and France.

Interestingly on the enterprise side, there were only 19 requests made of Microsoft’s enterprise customers (such as Office 365 users) affecting 48 accounts, and of those requests, the company disclosed content in just 4 cases and non-content in 1 of them. All 19 requests were from U.S. law enforcement agencies.

Most interesting of all is that Microsoft says it has “not disclosed enterprise customer data in response to a government request issued pursuant to national security laws”.

The company also added this statement to the end of its post about these numbers:
We believe this data is valuable and useful to the community that is looking to better understand these issues. However we recognize that this report—focused on law enforcement and excluding national security—only paints part of the picture. We believe the U.S. Constitution guarantees our freedom to share more information with you and are therefore are currently petitioning the federal government for permission to publish more detailed data relating to any legal demands we may have received from the U.S. pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).