More damaging information continues to be revealed by Edward Snowden. The whistleblower says that Skype and Microsoft were two of the companies that helped the agency spy on American citizens.
In additional statements made to The Guardian, Snowden accuses Microsoft and Skype of collaborating and aiding the NSA to bypass encryption codes to access data on millions of users.
The Guardian published this new information on Thursday. In it, Snowden alleges that Microsoft actively participated in the feds decrypt messages sent over sites such as Outlook.com Web chat, Hotmail email service, and Skype.
Additionally the publication says that Snowden who was systems administrator for NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, provided the paper with files detailing the relationship between the intelligence service and Silicon Valley.
The documents are marked top-secret, the paper says, and they add to the already large number of disclosures provided by Snowden since June 6. Microsoft and Skype are the latest institutions to be outed by the revelations.
The latest NSA revelations further expose the tensions between Silicon Valley and the Obama administration. All the major tech firms are lobbying the government to allow them to disclose more fully the extent and nature of their cooperation with the NSA to meet their customers’ privacy concerns. Privately, tech executives are at pains to distance themselves from claims of collaboration and teamwork given by the NSA documents, and insist the process is driven by legal compulsion.
It may come as a surprise and a disappointment for many that Bill Gates’ corporation seemed to go out of its way to help the feds spy on unsuspecting citizens.
According to the report, the NSA became concerned over the interception of encrypted chats on Microsoft’s Outlook.com portal from the moment the company began testing the service in July of 2012.
Within five months, Microsoft and the FBI had come up with a solution that allowed the NSA to circumvent encryption on Outlook.com chats.
The Guardian revealed that Microsoft worked with intelligence agencies in order to let administrators of the PRISM data collection program easily access user data submitted via the cloud storage service SkyDrive, as well as Skype.
The journalists write,
Skype, which was bought by Microsoft in October 2011, worked with intelligence agencies last year to allow Prism to collect video of conversations as well as audio.
These allegations come in the face of Skype claims that it swore to protect user privacy. RT.com reported previously that the government has the ability to monitor Skype chats.
Chris Soghoian of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) told The Guardian, that in the past, Skype promised users that they were unable to perform wiretaps.
“It’s hard to square Microsoft’s secret collaboration with the NSA with its high-profile efforts to compete on privacy with Google.” Soghoian added.
A 2008 court ruling compelled several Silicon Valley entities to supply the government with user data without requiring a warrant, according to Yahoo.
Targeting US citizens does require an individual warrant, but the NSA is able to collect Americans’ communications without a warrant if the target is a foreign national located overseas.
Since PRISM’s existence became public, Microsoft and the other companies listed on the NSA documents have denied all knowledge of the program and insisted that the intelligence agencies do not have back doors into their systems.
Both, Microsoft and Skype claim that they have the user’s privacy as a top priority.
Part of a joint statement by Shawn Turner, spokesman for the director of National Intelligence, and Judith Emmel, spokeswoman for the NSA, says,
In practice, US companies put energy, focus and commitment into consistently protecting the privacy of their customers around the world, while meeting their obligations under the laws of the US and other countries in which they operate.
Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, the two journalists who interviewed Snowden before he came out as the source of the NSA leaks are joined by co-authors Ewen MacAskill, Spencer Ackerman, and Dominic Rushe in writing the piece in The Guardian.
What do you think of Snowden’s revelations that Microsoft and Skype cooperated in the NSA surveillance program?