Skip to main content

Microsoft helped Prism decrypt your emails and Skype, says report

Microsoft Prism role
When it rains, it Snowdens

Microsoft worked closely with multiple U.S. intelligence agencies, going as far as providing a workaround for encrypted emails, according to a new report today.

This damning account of cooperation with the U.S. government's Prism surveillance program is said to come from files provided to The Guardian by on-the-run leaker Edward Snowden.

The latest documents allege that Microsoft teamed up with the FBI for a solution that allowed the NSA to circumvent encrypted Outlook.com messages.

The company even went as far as to work with the FBI to help it understand new features to Outlook.com like user-created email ailases.

No word if Microsoft's infamous talking paperclip, Clippy, provided this assistance with an automated: "Looks like you're trying to spy on our users. How can I help?"

Looking into the SkyDrive, Skype

Prism was described as a "team sport" in the Snowden-leaked documents, according to the U.K. newspaper.

But Outlook.com isn't the only Microsoft product that is said to be part of the close collaboration between it and the U.S. government's contrversial spying program.

SkyDrive is said to have put Prism first, allowing it to access the cloud storage service without separate authorization.

And while Prism monitoring came to Skype eight months before Microsoft bought the VoIP service in 2011, surveillance tripled within the last 12 months.

"The audio portions of these sessions have been processed correctly all along, but without the accompanying video," noted the leaked PRISM documents acquired by The Guardian.

"Now, analysts will have the complete 'picture',".

Microsoft's response

Microsoft and other top Internet firms have denied providing backdoor access to the NSA, FBI and CIA for their data mining programs.

However, that's exactly what today's Snowden-leaked documents seem to indicate.

In response, Microsoft issued a statement on its website, denying blanket or direct access to its products including Outlook and Skype.

"We have clear principles which guide the response across our entire company to government demands for customer information for both law enforcement and national security issues."

"To be clear, Microsoft does not provide any government with blanket or direct access to SkyDrive, Outlook.com, Skype or any Microsoft product."

Microsoft wants to say more

Microsoft, like Google, has expressed its desire to give customers a more detailed picture of its role in Prism, but a FISA gag order prevents the company from doing so.

"There are aspects of this debate that we wish we were able to discuss more freely," Microsoft said to wrap-up its statement today.

"That's why we've argued for additional transparency that would help everyone understand and debate these important issues."

Matt Swider

US Editor-in-Chief

Matt Swider is TechRadar's gadget-savvy, globe-trotting US Editor-in-Chief Editor who leads the US team in New York City. He began his tech journalism career all the way back in 1999 at the ripe at of 14, and first started writing for TechRadar in 2012. He's tested over 1,000 phones, tablets and wearables and commands a Twitter account of 600,000+ followers. Matt received his journalism degree from Penn State University and is never seen without his TechRadar headphones.