Microsoft releases biannual transparency reports

Today Microsoft is releasing its most recent biannual transparency reports on the Microsoft Transparency Hub. These reports consist of the Law Enforcement Requests Report, U.S. National Security Orders Report and Content Removal Requests Report.

The Law Enforcement Requests Report and the U.S. National Security Orders Report, which cover the period from July to December 2016, are largely consistent with previous reports:

  • During the latter half of 2016, Microsoft received a total number of 25,837 legal requests for customer information from law enforcement agencies. This brings the total number of requests from law enforcement for 2016 to 61,409, which is a decrease from 2015, when requests totaled 74,311.
  • A majority (71 percent) of the law enforcement demands Microsoft received during this period continued to come from a handful of countries, led by the U.S., United Kingdom, France and Germany.
  • For the latest Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) data reported, Microsoft received 1,000-1,499 FISA orders seeking content disclosures affecting 12,000-12,499 accounts, compared to the 0-499 FISA orders seeking disclosure of content impacting 17,500-17,999 accounts reported for the previous period. We received 0-499 National Security Letters in the latest reporting period, which remains unchanged from the previous period.

The latest Content Removal Requests Report details acceptance rates regarding requests to remove content from governments, copyright holders and individuals subject to the European Union’s “Right to Be Forgotten” ruling and victims of non-consensual pornography.

As part of the release of these reports, we are also disclosing a National Security Letter (NSL) we received from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2014, which sought data belonging to a customer of our consumer services. Microsoft is the latest in a series of companies able to disclose an NSL due to provisions in the USA Freedom Act requiring the FBI to review previously issued non-disclosure orders. The NSL was included in the aggregate data of a previous report, but we’re newly able to disclose its content for this reporting period.

The reforms in the USA Freedom Act were a positive step forward and we believe reasonable limits on the routine use of government secrecy should be adopted more broadly. There are times when secrecy is vital to an investigation, but too often secrecy orders are unnecessarily used, or are needlessly indefinite and prevent us from telling customers of intrusions even after investigations are long over. That’s why we asked a federal court to weigh in on the increasing frequency of these orders. Our hope is this lawsuit will lead to new rules or laws that keep secrecy for times when it is truly essential.

We believe transparency is essential to accountability and building trust in technology. We are committed to upholding these principles in our practices and our reporting.

To learn more about the information contained in these reports, please visit www.microsoft.com/transparency

About the Author

Director of Corporate Responsibility