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Microsoft keeps Skype content safe from police data slurping - for now

Second transparency report shows slight increase in data requests

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Microsoft has not yet handed over the content of any Skype conversations to regular law enforcement requests in the last six months, Redmond has revealed.

Redmond's stance was shown in its second transparency report, released on Friday. However, the report does not contain national security letter requests, so NSA and FISC and other spook requests are legally barred from being disclosed.

The company has teamed with, Yahoo!, Facebook and Google by legally petitioning the US government to let it disclose precise information on secret requests for user data.

During the first six months of 2013 Microsoft (and Skype) were hit with a combined 37,176 requests from law enforcement agencies involving some 66,539 accounts, which is broadly in line with the numbers for the whole of 2012 – 75,378 requests across 137,424 accounts.

The report says Microsoft provided content in response to 2.19 percent of the requests, compared with 2.1 percent for the whole of 2012.

"As with the 2012 report this new data shows that across our services only a tiny fraction of accounts, less that 0.01 percent are ever affected by law enforcement requests for customer data. Of the small number that were affected, the overwhelming majority involved the disclosure of non-content data," Microsoft wrote.

The US made some 7,014 requests for data across 18,809 accounts, versus 4,404 requests by the UK. There were 749 instances where Microsoft disclosed user content to US agencies versus none for the UK.

The company dealt with 19 requests for email accounts hosted for enterprise customers located in the US, significantly up on the 11 requests made for enterprise data in 2012. It disclosed customer content in four of these cases and non-content data in one.

For the other cases – barring one which is still pending – Redmond rejected the requests, found no data, or redirected the police to slurp the data from the customer directly.

"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)," the company wrote. ®

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