Microsoft has backtracked on claims made in its latest transparency report that suggested that it had received more than double the number of surveillance requests from the US government in the first half of 2016 than it received in the six months before.
The data in question is user content that is demanded by the US government ‘for foreign intelligence purposes’.
In its bi-annual transparency report, Microsoft had claimed that it had received between 1,000 and 1,499 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests from the US government between January 2016 and June 2016.
This was more than double the 0 to 499 FISA requests from the US government in the second half of 2015, and it was the highest number of requests Microsoft had received in any half-year period since 2011, when it began tracking government surveillance orders.
However, the Redmond-based software giant has made a correction to the US National Security Orders Report and accompanying blog post, which states that range for the time period was actually 0 – 499 FISA orders. This means that the number of surveillance requests in the first half of 2016 was the same or at least similar to that of the preceding six-month period.
Microsoft said that all other data disclosed in the report was correct. The company said it has put ‘additional safeguards in place’ to ensure the numbers it reports are correct from now onwards, and apologised for the error.
The report had found that the number of users that the FISA orders related to fell during the same period – from between 17,500 and 17,999 in the last six months of 2015 to between 12,000 and 12,499 in the first six months of 2016.
As well as releasing its transparency reports, Microsoft published a national security letter (NSL), a warrantless surveillance order used by the FBI, for the first time.
In the letter, dated back to 2014, the unnamed FBI worker asks for all subscriber information, limited to name, address, and length of service, for all services provided to or accounts held by the named subscriber.
The worker adds that the information sought “is relevant to an authorised investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities”.
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