The recent privacy scandals in the United States have made Americans believe that all our electronic devices are spying on us.
Unfortunately, that’s closer to the truth than many people like to think.
From your desktop computer to your mobile phone, people are “spying” on you all the time. Advertisers deliver ads to your smartphone based on your current GPS location and internet cookies track you across the internet to convince you to buy something.
Worse, intelligence agencies around the world have open access to backdoors on most popular electronics.
How were those backdoors created? Companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft seemed to have simply said “Yes” when the FBI and NSA asked to install backdoors.
Suddenly, it was that easy to gain intimate access into people across the country.
While most tech companies are keeping quiet about their links with the NSA, Microsoft has come out strongly against the NSA, saying that has refused customer information requests from the FBI.
Specifically, the FBI sent Microsoft a National Security Letter (NSL) which asked for several categories of information “relating to a single user account for one of its enterprise customers.”
An NSL is a really official document form the U.S. government and is similar to a gagging order. Microsoft is forbidden from sharing the information request with the actual user.
Instead of complying to the request, Microsoft claimed that the request was a violation of Constitutional rights. In a statement, Microsoft’s general counsel said:
“We concluded that the nondisclosure provision was unlawful and violated our Constitutional right to free expression. It do so by hindering our practice of notifying enterprise customers when we receive legal orders related to data.”
Microsoft continues its reputation as privacy advocate
While Apple and Google happily share customer information with advertisers and make billions off such practices, Microsoft has quietly maintained a strong privacy stance.
Microsoft has continuously achieved top marks from the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Who Has Your Back report. The latest Who Has Your Back report was released last week and gave Microsoft five stars for its continued protection of customers.
Microsoft didn’t stop the FBI
After Microsoft threw the FBI’s information request back in its face, the FBI wasn’t done.
Unfortunately, the FBI obtained the information from a “third party source.” Nobody knows what, exactly, that source was – a Microsoft employee, a FBI-affiliated hacker, or a backdoor software program – but the FBI clearly has other ways to gather data instead of just asking Microsoft really nicely.
I can’t help but think that Apple and Google would have immediately said “Yes” when asked to share customer data by the FBI. Kudos to Microsoft for being one of the few big tech companies that isn’t selling customer information to advertisers and government agencies.