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Microsoft follows online heavyweights Google and Twitter: Law Enforcement Requests Report

Amid controversy over China surveillance and snooping, the software giant Microsoft follows the lead of online heavyweights Google and Twitter in releasing a transparency report “2012 Law Enforcement Requests Report,” that provides details about requests for information that law enforcement officials have submitted to Redmond. Company said it will update its report every six months.

Microsoft last year received 75,378 law enforcement requests for customer information covering 137,424 accounts or other identifiers, but that only 2.1 percent, or 1,558 requests, resulted in the disclosure of customer content.

Excluding Skype, Microsoft services received 70,665 requests that impacted a potential 122,015 accounts or other identifiers.

The report covers all of Microsoft’s online and cloud services, including Hotmail,, SkyDrive, Office 365 and Xbox Live. It separately discloses similar data from Skype.

“We’ve benefited from the opportunity to learn from them and their experience, and we seek to build further on the industry’s commitment to transparency by releasing our own data today,” Microsoft’s general counsel, Brad Smith, said in a blog post.

Like Google, the software giant says: “We require a valid subpoena or equivalent document before we will consider releasing non-content data; and we require a court order or warrant before we will consider producing content.”

The 14 disclosures of customer content given to governments outside the US went to Brazil, Ireland, Canada, and New Zealand.

“Non-content” data refers to things such as a person’s name, gender, e-mail address, country of residence or system-generated data such as IP address and traffic data. Of the 56,388 requests in which Microsoft (excluding Skype) disclosed some type of non-content information, more than 66 percent were from government agencies in the US, the UK, Turkey, Germany and France. For Skype, the top five countries were the UK, the US, Germany, France and Taiwan, which together accounted for 81 percent of all requests.

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