Software firm squares up to US spies after outrage and loss of confidence in IT security
Microsoft has called for widespread reform of the National Security Agency (NSA) on the anniversary of Edward Snowden‘s leaks revealing the spying practices of the US Government.
The software giant has demanded that US search warrants not be used to seize data outside of the country, that bulk collection of telephone records desists, that the government reform the foreign intelligence surveillance (FISA) court, that the NSA stop hacking data centres and cables, and that transparency increases across the board.
Brad Smith, executive vice president of Microsoft’s legal and corporate affairs, said: "We all want to live in a safe and secure world and governments – including the U.S. government – play a vital role in helping to protect our communities."
"But the reality is clear. The U.S. Government needs to address important unfinished business to reduce the technology trust deficit it has created."
Leaked documents from Snowden confirming extensive surveillance programmes among the US and its allies caused shockwaves around the world, with later reports that European politicians were being wiretapped coarsening relations between the US and Europe.
The reports led to a loss of faith in IT companies’ ability to protect customer data, with many businesses becoming reluctant to switch to cloud services because of security concerns
"It’s now apparent that the government intercepted data in transit across the Internet and hacked links between company data centres," Smith added.
"These disclosures rightly have prompted a vigorous debate over the extent and scope of government surveillance, leading to some positive changes. But much more needs to be done."
Along with Yahoo, Google and Facebook, Microsoft formed a coalition to protest the USA Freedom Act, which passed last month. The bill was intended to put limits on bulk collection of data, but critics have attacked the bill, claiming it is too vague to have real impact.
In April Snowden called for international standards on data snooping, talking to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. "This is not just a problem for the United States and the European Union: this is in fact a global problem," he said.
Mikko Hypponen of security firm F-Secure said: "Practically all the changes we’ve seen have been to improve the privacy of US citizens, not foreigners. Politicians have to keep their voters satisfied, and we foreigners won’t be able to vote them out of their positions."
Last week the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a group of civil liberties activists, told a federal court that the US government had destroyed evidence of NSA activities, claiming the government had admitted as such in court filings.
"EFF and our clients have always had the same simple claim: the government’s mass, warrantless surveillance violates the rights of all Americans and must be stopped," said EFF legal director Cindy Cohn.