Microsoft Charges the FBI Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars for Delivering User Data

by Istvan Fekete on March 21, 2014

Microsoft charges the FBI’s most secretive division hundreds of thousands of dollars per month to legally view customer information, according to documents uncovered by the Syrian Electronic Army and sent to the Daily Dot.

The SEA is a hacker group loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and it is renowned for cracking Western media companies’ social media accounts, such as the Associated Press, CNN, NPR, and others.

What’s interesting, however, is that despite having hacked the Daily Dot accounts, this time they agreed to let the latter analyze the documents with experts before the group published them in full.

So what did they uncover? Well, first of all, if you have a Microsoft account, your email is scanned by your provider (don’t exactly know if they do it on a regular basis or when requested to by the FBI or other secretive groups connected to the PRISM program).

Secondly, they get paid for scanning your email. The documents uncovered are invoices and emails exchanged between Microsoft’s Global Criminal Compliance team and the FBI’s Digital Intercept Technology Unit (DITU), and show exactly how much money the tech company charges the DITU in terms of compliance costs when the latter provides warrants and court orders for customers’ data.

To throw in some numbers: while in 2012, they charged $100 per request for information, the rate doubled a year later in 2013: $200 per request, the invoices reveal.

There is nothing wrong with that, as this is perfectly in line with Microsoft’s policy to charge “reasonable expenses”. But it raises questions about how frequently the government wants information on customers.

Some of the DITU invoices show hundreds of requests per month.

Of course, the authenticity of these documents can be confirmed by any of the involved parties, but – yeah, you guessed it – none of them have commented on the matter.

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Written by: Istvan Fekete. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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