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Hotmail and Skype: Microsoft Allowed NSA Special Access to Data

July 16, 2013

Hotmail allowed for NSA easy access

By Cynthia Herbert :: 2:29 PM

A recently released report from U.K. paper The Guardian reveals that Redmond, WA-based Microsoft allowed the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) to have preferential access to user data for its Hotmail email service, and Skype video chat service.

This new information is contrary to earlier reports by the company that denied widespread and cooperative involvement with NSA spying efforts.

Microsoft, the report claims, has worked closely with U.S. intelligence services to allow Hotmail and Skype communications and metadata to be intercepted. Microsoft’s aid allows the NSA to bypass the company’s encryption algorithms, which give users a false sense of data security.

Information obtained by whistleblower and former government contractor Edward Snowden shows the large scale of collaboration between the U.S. spy agency and Microsoft over the last two to three years.

By circumventing Microsoft encryption technology. the NSA had access to user data in both Hotmail and ahead of the user’s encrypted data stream. Video chat data from Skype was also open and available to the government before the encryption technology was enabled for users.

The government could, under a blanket order, allow Hotmail,, and Skype data to be collected without an individual warrant if the requesting agency has a strong belief that the intended target is not a U.S. citizen, and is not operating from U.S. soil at the time of the data grab.

Since the existence of the government’s data gathering program, known as PRISM, became public, many companies, including Microsoft, took great pains to deny any knowledge or involvement in the programs. However, Microsoft is a clear exception to this, as the reports show that just within the past year, the company worked closely with the FBI to make access to its cloud storage system, SkyDrive, easier for the agency.