Microsoft to Warn Users of Government Requests for InformationBrian Womack and Dina Bass
Microsoft Corp. will start giving users more information about government requests for data, seeking to provide greater transparency and reassure consumers about how their activities are being monitored.
“Microsoft is updating its policy to expand routine notification of users about government requests for data, unless specifically prohibited by law,” Kathy Roeder, a spokeswoman for the Redmond, Washington-based company, said.
Technology companies are changing their policies to offer more disclosure amid growing government demands for information about what people do online. Concerns over security increased after Edward Snowden last year leaked information that Internet companies are being compelled under court orders to give the U.S. National Security Agency information about citizens and other users.
Facebook Inc. hasn’t changed its policy and is reviewing the matter, according to Jodi Seth, a Facebook spokeswoman.
“We are committed to transparency, and providing notice about government requests is an important part of being transparent,” Seth wrote in an e-mailed statement. “We are always working to improve our notification process as the law permits.”
Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg earlier this year blasted President Barack Obama over how the government handles user data, saying it threatened the future of the Internet.
Google said it makes efforts to tell users about on legal requests.
“We notify users about legal demands when appropriate, unless prohibited by law or court order,” the company said in an statement.
In January, Google, Apple Inc. and other technology companies won U.S. permission to disclose more about government orders for customer data. Companies are permitted to say broadly how many accounts are covered by government requests and whether the content of users’ communications was sought.
The Washington Post reported May 1 that the companies “updating their policies to expand routine notification of users about government data seizures.”
Kristin Huguet, a spokeswoman for Apple, didn’t respond to a request for comment.