Microsoft has been left with questions to answer over its approach to the US National Security Agency’s (NSA) global internet surveillance programme after a new document was released implying that the NSA routinely collected data from the Microsoft cloud.
According to the document, published in journalist Glenn Greenwald’s new book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the Surveillance State, published today, the Microsoft SkyDrive data collection programme started just months before NSA contractor Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the US intelligence agency’s internet surveillance programme.
SkyDrive was the name of Microsoft’s cloud, which has since been renamed OneDrive following a copyright infringement claim by satellite broadcaster BSkyB.
“Beginning on 7 March 2013, Prism now collects Microsoft SkyDrive data as part of Prism’s standard Store Communications collection package for a tasked FISA Amendments Act Section 702 (FAA702) selector,” states the document.
The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 was the amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 that retrospectively legalised the NSA’s internet surveillance programme.
It was introduced in response to a number of legal setbacks that outlawed the “warrantless wiretapping” that US law enforcements agencies were conducting to support anti-terrorist activities.
“Analysts will no longer have to make a special request to SSO for this,” it continued. “This new capability will result in a much more complete and timely collection response from SSO for our enterprise customers.”
Crucially, the document implies that Microsoft co-operated fully with the NSA in building a working system enabling it to get easy access to data held in Microsoft’s cloud.
“This success is the result of the FBI working for many months with Microsoft to get this tasking and collection solution established,” it said.
The Microsoft cloud also hosted Microsoft Office applications, offering NSA agents direct access to corporate documents.
Microsoft always claimed in response to earlier Snowden leaks that the NSA did not have direct access to Microsoft servers, but the latest leak indicates that the FBI arranged the compromise of Microsoft’s cloud.
Following a request for comment, Microsoft emailed a link to general counsel Brad Smith’s response to the original claims.