Microsoft claims win over FBI, but agency still got info it wanted
The FBI dropped the fight with Microsoft after finding another way to keep its investigation secret
IDG News Service - Microsoft claimed victory over an FBI bid to keep a request for customer data secret for national security reasons, but it appears the government gave up the fight after getting its way without the company.
The FBI issued a National Security Letter to Microsoft in 2013 seeking subscriber information about a single user account for one of the company's enterprise customers, according to documents unsealed on Thursday by a federal court in Seattle.
The letter had a nondisclosure provision that forbade Microsoft from disclosing the request to the company affected, which Microsoft concluded "was unlawful and violated our Constitutional right to free expression," wrote Brad Smith, the company's chief legal officer, in a blog post.
"It did so by hindering our practice of notifying enterprise customers when we receive legal orders related to their data," he wrote.
After Microsoft filed a petition challenging the NSL in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, the "FBI withdrew its letter," Smith wrote.
But the unsealed documents showed why the FBI didn't challenge Microsoft's petition. The agency had obtained the information it sought directly from the Microsoft customer it had targeted in a way that maintained "the confidentiality of the investigation."
That reasoning would indicate the FBI might have fought Microsoft's petition if it hadn't achieved its aim of keeping the probe quiet.
Still, Smith considered it a victory for Microsoft. Although government requests for enterprise customer data are rare, "where we have received requests, we've succeeded in redirecting the government to obtain the information from the customer, or we have obtained permission from the customer to provide the data," he wrote.
"We're pleased with the outcome of this case, which validates our approach," Smith wrote.
Microsoft is one of many technology companies that have vowed to closely scrutinize U.S. government requests for data.
In January, the U.S. Justice Department reached an agreement with technology companies that would allow more details to be released on Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act orders and NSLs, which often must be kept secret.
- Mission Critical: Managing Mobile Applications & Content Smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices have become embedded in enterprise processes, thanks to the consumerization of IT and a new generation of...
- Securing Mobility, From Device to Network At one time, the process of managing and securing mobile devices and applications was fairly straightforward. Most organizations worried about one application (email)...
- Planning for Mobile Success Many organizations are seeing clear and quantifiable benefits from the deployment of mobile technologies that provide access to data and applications any time,...
- The Challenges and Opportunities of Mobile Application Development Nearly all business users now demand mobile devices--their own or company-owned--along with anywhere access to corporate applications and data. What turns mobile devices...
- Keep Servers Up and Running and Attackers in the Dark An SSL/TLS handshake requires at least 10 times more processing power on a server than on the client. SSL renegotiation attacks can readily...
- On Demand: Mastering the Art of Mobile Content Management Mobile device usage in the enterprise has skyrocketed, and it continues to escalate. IT must answer to users who demand access to their... All Legal White Papers | Webcasts