In the wake of the NSA scandal, Microsoft announces plans to fight back against government data requests.
Since last year, a devastating storm has been brewing after security analyst Edward Snowden revealed to the global masses that not only is our data unsafe, it’s also being snooped and spied on by an official arm of the United States government. According to the United States, the searches of our emails, text messages and various other electronically transmitted data are all fair game as they help the United States acquire information about terrorist plots and criminal threats. This would be fair enough but according to Snowden, the data-snooping goes far more than that and has even gone to heights of the NSA (National Security Agency) finding out citizens’ private nude photos and spreading them around the office for, presumably, entertainment purposes.
So problematic is this that various tech companies, including Yahoo, have chosen to encrypt data or store it elsewhere so that the long arm of the US government won’t be able to reach it or legally use it against people, while products such as the Blackphone have popped up claiming to be the most secure un-hackable phones in the world. However, as the US government works its way through a loophole, Microsoft is having to take the fight right to them.
To explain, the NSA from time to time (read: on a regular basis) submits warrants or requests to companies demanding they hand over their data. Often times the company is forced to comply. Unless, that is, the data in question isn’t stored or based on US territory in which there is the slimmest amount of wiggle room. Technically, even if you use a US company to store data on non-US soil, you should be alright but now the NSA is looking for a way around that. They’ve tried to do this by unfreezing a search warrant that commanded Microsoft to hand over data that’s stored overseas. Microsoft refused to comply. The company explains that not only will they “not be turning over the email [data]” they also plan to appeal. Furthermore, Microsoft also argue that domestic search warrants should not be able to access data that’s stored abroad and it’s a viewpoint that’s received mass support from other technology companies.
While such a stance is in Microsoft’s best favour – failing to protect their users hurts their profits after all – in the larger scheme of things it can be seen as them fighting the good fight. If Microsoft was quick to hand over the goods to the NSA, what’s stopping the organisation from using domestic search warrants against other companies headquartered in the US even if their data is stored in other countries too? Not only this but it could have messy, faecal-spattered snowball consequences for us, resulting in the NSA having more power than they should rightfully have at all.
Other pertinent questions that have popped up are ‘what would happen to the US company if everyone jumps ship for companies that aren’t based in the US and therefore won’t be forced to hand over data to the US government?’, ‘why does the US government want data from Microsoft’s Ireland data centres that might not even pertain to a US citizen?’ and ‘how would the US government feel if China tried to play a similar hand against them?’ These are all valid queries and ones that no one has the answer to just yet but we’ll keep you posted once we know more.
Source: Windows IT Pro
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