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BLOG: How much privacy will you have with Microsoft's 'family of devices'?

Ms Smith (via Network World) | July 15, 2013
After collaborating with NSA and FBI to offer surveillance for Skype, SkyDrive, Outlook.com, even circumventing its own encryption, how much privacy will you have with Microsoft's upcoming 'family of devices'?

Windows may only be a "shell" now, said six different times by Steve Ballmer as he revealed a new strategy for Microsoft that revolves around a "family of devices." The company will "design, create and deliver through us and through third parties a complete family of Windows-powered devices," which will include "a full spectrum of both partner and first-party devices. Our family will include phones, tablets, PCs, 2-in-1s, TV-attached devices and other devices to be imagined and developed."

What good is a door lock if the manufacturer first hands out a master key to law enforcement? What good is a promise that your privacy is a top priority by a company that provides spying for free to law enforcement? What good is encryption if Prism capabilities allow intelligence agencies to collect your emails, such as those from Outlook.com, Hotmail or Live, before they are encrypted? What do you have to look forward to with Microsoft's upcoming "family of devices?" Surely there will be government surveillance backdoors on all.

Your privacy is very important to Microsoft, the company alleges, as it used privacy for a battleground to slam Google.  For example, during its anti-Google campaign Scroogled, Microsoft launched a privacy petition to stop Google from scanning "every word of every email" to serve up relevant ads. The Redmond giant pointed out that "there's no way to opt out of this invasion of your privacy." But thanks to documents provided by Edward Snowden, we know that there is no way to opt out of Microsoft practically handing all your emails directly to intelligence agencies. It's more than email; what you store on SkyDrive and what do over Skype is not private. Is that not also an invasion of your privacy?

After reviewing top secrets PRISM documents obtained by Snowden, The Guardian reported that Microsoft collaborated with intelligence agencies, and even helped the NSA circumvent Microsoft's own encryption, so the government could conduct surveillance through the company's products.

  • Microsoft helped the NSA to circumvent its encryption to address concerns that the agency would be unable to intercept web chats on the new Outlook.com portal;
  • The agency already had pre-encryption stage access to email on Outlook.com, including Hotmail;
  • The company worked with the FBI this year to allow the NSA easier access via Prism to its cloud storage service SkyDrive, which now has more than 250 million users worldwide;
  • Microsoft also worked with the FBI's Data Intercept Unit to "understand" potential issues with a feature in Outlook.com that allows users to create email aliases;
  • In July last year, nine months after Microsoft bought Skype, the NSA boasted that a new capability had tripled the amount of Skype video calls being collected through Prism;
  • Material collected through Prism is routinely shared with the FBI and CIA, with one NSA document describing the program as a "team sport".

 

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