Microsoft Subnet An independent Microsoft community View more

Microsoft boosts its Electronic Frontier Foundation privacy rating

It bags a 4 out of 6 rating, earns praise for exposing prevalence of National Security Letters

Microsoft is winning praise from the Electronic Frontier Foundation for taking stronger stands to protect the privacy of customers’ data that it stores in its cloud data centers.

In its annual “Who’s Got Your Back?” report the EFF singles out Microsoft for praise twice – for publishing the number of times it provided data to the government and for requiring warrants before turning over private messages to law enforcement.

RELATED: EFF urges court to protect privacy of text messages 

ONGOING: Facebook weighs in on privacy of its Home Android app 

WARRANTLESS: IRS going against privacy tide on email search 

In all Microsoft earned three more stars this year than last, boosting its score to four stars out of a possible six, the EFF says, which puts the company in the middle of the pack of 18 service providers the report grades.

The new stars – for publishing a transparency report, for requiring warrants before releasing private messages and for publishing the guidelines it follows before it turns over information in response to government requests.

Microsoft also earned a star for being a member of the Digital Due Process coalition, which lobbies Congress for privacy rights.

The company missed out on two stars for failing to tell users when their data is requested and for failing to fight in court for users’ privacy rights.

Microsoft has been evaluated since EFF started writing the reports in 2011, and this is the first time Microsoft has published a transparency report, the EFF says.

Microsoft is cited as trailblazing the reporting of National Security Letters, documents the FBI issues without court approval to gather personal records so long as it deems the information relevant to terrorism or espionage investigations.

Recipients of these letters are forbidden to reveal the existence of the letters to close associates or family and certainly not to the general public. But Microsoft has helped boost public understanding of these letters by publishing the numbers of these orders it has received, EFF says. “While these general reports do not provide exact numbers, they provide a small but vital level of public transparency around this secretive legal instrument,” the report says.

Microsoft was also called out as requiring warrants before it will release private messages, typically emails, to law enforcement. “When companies require a warrant before turning over private messages to law enforcement, they are ensuring that private user communications are treated consistently with the protections of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution,” the EFF report says.

Tim Greene covers Microsoft and unified communications for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at tgreene@nww.com and follow him on Twitter@Tim_Greene.

More on Microsoft:

Microsoft lures Windows XP business customers to Windows 8 with a 15% discount 

Microsoft Hotmail, Outlook, SkyDrive problems could hurt customer confidence

Microsoft seeks to capture a generation of Office 365 users

Microsoft could pay billions for running afoul in Europe 

Should Azure customers worry about reliability?

Windows 8 guru names the top 8 trends at CES 

Windows 8 portables to get inexpensive, long-lived by Xmas 2013?

‘Christmas gift for someone you hate: Windows 8’

Rumored follow-ons for Surface tablets; reduced orders for original Surface

Microsoft buys a starring role for its Surface tablet on TV’s 'Suburgatory'

Foxconn pays Android license fees to Microsoft despite Google’s claim they’re unjustified 

From CSO: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies