The lights are on
Update: The Guardian has revised its story from yesterday regarding Prism, the NSA's spying program and services owned and operated by Microsoft. The changes are important as they deal directly with the timing of Skype participation and changes to how it was incorporated into the surveillance network.
According to the new information, Skype monitoring started in earnest in early February 2011 after the company received directive from the United States Attorney General's office. Microsoft's Skype acquisition was announced in May 2011. The Guardian report has also been revised to reflect that no changes were made to Skype in June 2012. Last year, Skype came under fire due to allegations that changes enabled further surveillance. These were denied in a blog post by Mark Gillet, Skype vice president at Microsoft.
A new report sheds light on the depth of interaction between Microsoft and the NSA's Prism spy program. The report alleges that the Redmond, Washington company collected and/or enabled the collection of private emails and Skype transmissions.
According to the report England's Guardian newspaper, in addition to unencrypted Outlook.com email and SkyDrive files, the NSA has been collecting Skype calls since February 2011 the NSA has been collecting Skype video since June 2012 and audio as early as November 2010 (see update above). As you might recall, Skype is the software that powers chat on Xbox One.
Additionally, Microsoft confirmed that the Xbox One will require the Kinect to be on in order to function. The camera and microphone bundle also offers a standby mode so that users can activate the console by voice at any time. Microsoft has also stated that the Kinect can be set to different power states so that it can be fully powered down when not in use. We approached Microsoft for comment on the allegations.
“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," a Microsoft representative told Game Informer. "First, we take our commitments to our customers and to compliance with applicable law very seriously, so we provide customer data only in response to legal processes. Second, our compliance team examines all demands very closely, and we reject them if we believe they aren’t valid. Third, we only ever comply with orders about specific accounts or identifiers, and we would not respond to the kind of blanket orders discussed in the press over the past few weeks, as the volumes documented in our most recent disclosure clearly illustrate."
"To be clear, Microsoft does not provide any government with blanket or direct access to SkyDrive, Outlook.com, Skype or any Microsoft product. Finally when we upgrade or update products legal obligations may in some circumstances require that we maintain the ability to provide information in response to a law enforcement or national security request. There are aspects of this debate that we wish we were able to discuss more freely. That’s why we’ve argued for additional transparency that would help everyone understand and debate these important issues.”
The details presented today follow earlier reports in the Guardian and Washington Post that also accuse Apple, Google, Facebook, and Yahoo of being complicit in the Prism spy program.
Our Take[Update] The implications of the Prism spy program feed into the fears that many gamers have had about putting a new Kinect in their living rooms. Given that the device is designed to be "always on" for optimal use (even in a low-power state), it's no wonder that some are still begging for Microsoft to cut the cord. Even if Microsoft had absolutely no choice but to comply with the United States government (as seems to be the subtext of the last line of the provided statement), the pairing of the Kinect and the ability for Skype to be accessed easily are concerning.
It's also important to understand the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the court that handles wiretapping and electronic surveillance. An article last week in the New York Times details expansion of the secretive court's powers, including alleged exploitation and expansion of the "special needs" doctrine that enables airport security screenings and drunk driving checkpoints. Its relevance to this particular issue is that FISA judges have used the provision to exempt the NSA from warrants, thereby circumventing the fourth amendment's protection against unreasonable search and seizure in the search for possible terrorists.
The concern then becomes about the definition of "possible terrorist." The case of Justin Carter and a foolish Facebook post evidence how serious some declarations are being taken. While those comments were made in a more public setting, a combination of broadening legal application of surveillance law and the ease of accessing personal data through the services we use regularly give me pause.
Microsoft has indicated it is trying to get clear of the gag order so that they can speak more freely about these issues. Google and Yahoo have also filed to be able to reveal how they complied and what objections they made to the orders.
Email the author Mike Futter, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.
still doesnt worrier me im not one to hide anything Microsoft just going to hear me yell at my tv and reading books and hang with my gf
The scary thing is that it isn't just MS doing this. Apple, Google, Facebook, and Yahoo are also involved. How many of us have no contact with products or services from ANY of those companies? Don't get me wrong, I do not support this in any way, but to say that they are monitoring us anyway, so why not buy these products and have them in our homes, is simply handing all your rights over to a tyrannical government on a silver platter. Educated and concerned consumers NEED to boycott these types of products, not flock to them in droves! Guess, what? The educated terrorists will avoid them, and the more information gets out about these programs, the more they will only be monitoring and invading the privacy of the innocent citizens, and not doing any real good.
Wow Microsoft. I've lost any respect for you. If I hadn't already.
Welcome to the nanny state. "Elections have consequences" lol. Couldn't have said it better. Any who, I have abandoned consoles because of all the connectivity. A live audio and video feed in my living room is just too much. The government is already too big to demand the surveillance just stop. The NSA will just continue on secretly so there's nothing we can do about it. What concerns me more are hobbiest hackers. F that.
most of you are idiotic, the ones that are sane and understand that MS has no choice when handed a paper by the FBI because of National Security i am not talking about you all. Look this has been going on since they decided that what you say on Facebook/Twitter can be held against you in a court of law. if your having a phone conversation and you bring up the word assassination and a government official they will wiretap your phone, if u bring up shooting up a movie theater you will be watched, because we b*tch when the government drops the ball, all of us do it. i'm getting my xbox1 nothing will stop me from that, but remember ps4 has a volunteer camera so if u hook that up u are agreeing to their terms and conditions which could include spying, but hey they aren't telling u that, and who can blame them look at the riot being made over the kinect. at least with the x1 and always on kinect i know what i'm getting, and if someone was using the x1 to plot a bombing or a mass shooting spree and they said it to where the kinect picks it up and sends it to MS and they hand it to the FBI or NSA and they stopped it, id be okay with that, and everyone who has nothing but bad and rotten things to say would praise the kinect for always being on because it saved people from a horrific tragedy.