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Microsoft reports on how often it helps police with their enquiries

Promises half-yearly reviews going forward

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Microsoft has joined the list of companies opening up about its cooperation with THE MAN with its own report on how often it helped out the police last year, and says it'll issue updates on the situation every six months.

Redmond came in for some stick in January when a coalition of activists, privacy organizations, and journalists called for it to follow the example of Google (and more recently Twitter) in being more open about what information it hands over the police. Of particular concern is the data on Skype, whose privacy or lack of it is worrying many users.

"In recent months, there has been broadening public interest in how often law enforcement agencies request customer data from technology companies and how our industry responds to these requests," said Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith in a blog post. "We seek to build further on the industry's commitment to transparency by releasing our own data today."

In 2012 Microsoft received 75,378 law enforcement requests for customer information, spread over 137,424 accounts. Of these Microsoft agreed to help uncover user content in 2.1 per cent of cases, but this data only covers Hotmail/Outlook.com, SkyDrive, Xbox LIVE, Microsoft Account, Messenger and Office 365 – with a separate data set for Skype.

Only 11 requests came in from the police about Microsoft's enterprise customers, with the rest targeting private consumers. Only four of these requests were granted, and only after consultation with the companies involved.

Turkish police were the most common callers for Microsoft's non-Skype services, with 11,434 requests just beating out the police in the US who filed 11,073. But the US cops got the most support from Redmond, which acceded to over 13 per cent of their enquiries in comparison to less than 1 per cent from the Turks. There were only 14 disclosures of customer content outside the US, in Brazil, Ireland, Canada and New Zealand.

The UK was in third place with 9,226 requests, but the British bobbies got a less than 1 per cent return rate too. But when it comes to Skype requests the Brits asked Redmond more often than anyone else with 1,268 requests out of a global total of 4,713 – but Microsoft handed out no content information for any Skype calls last year, just names and emails of some users. ®

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