Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) received more than 37,000 requests for data from law enforcement agencies around the world in the period between January 2013 and June 2013, with more than 73 percent of such demands coming from the U.S., Germany, France, UK and Turkey, the company revealed on Sunday.
The volume of requests totaling 37,196 affected 66,539 accounts in the first half of 2013 as compared to 75,378 requests involving 137,424 potential accounts in the whole of 2012, Microsoft said, adding that 77 percent of the requests were answered with “non-content data,” while no data was disclosed for more than a fifth, or nearly 21 percent, of such requests.
“Only a small number of requests result in the disclosure of customer content data, just 2.19 percent of total requests. 92 percent of the requests that resulted in the disclosure of customer content were from United States law enforcement agencies. This is again, broadly in line with what we saw in 2012,” Microsoft said in the report.
Non-content data refers to information about users such as their email address, name, location and IP address, while content data refers to what users are saying when they communicate through online services such as emails, photographs, and documents uploaded online.
The report, which covers requests for data relating to all of Microsoft’s online and cloud services, including Skype, did not include any government requests for data pertaining to national security, such as those issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, due to legal constraints.
In the U.S. alone, Microsoft received more than 7,000 law enforcement requests affecting more than 18,000 accounts in the first half of 2013, with 65 percent of the requests answered with non-content data, while 10 percent of all requests were answered with content. Requests for data pertaining to Skype accounts came close to 1,000 and affected more than 3,500 users, with 80 percent governmental requests receiving a non-content response from Microsoft.
Less than 0.01 percent of Microsoft’s hundreds of millions of accounts were potentially affected by law enforcement requests during this period, the company said, but added that it cannot determine how many individuals were potentially affected by the requests, because a single request may have multiple accounts used by a single user, or involve different accounts for different users.
“A number of law enforcement requests were rejected across all Microsoft services (2.5%), including Skype (7.3%),” Microsoft said. “Challenges to government requests can take many forms. In many of these cases, we simply inform the requesting government that we are unable to disclose the requested information, and explain our reason for doing so.”