Microsoft provided ‘information’ to authorities following the London terror attack

17-04-2017 21:55 PM

Following the London terror attack, Microsoft provided information to police within 30 minutes of the company receiving a legal request.

Following the London terror attack, Microsoft provided information to police within 30 minutes of the company receiving a legal request.

It goes against calls from UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd this week that authorities need to be able to bypass encryption. Creating deliberate backdoors will leave software vulnerable to malicious parties, and is open to potential abuse by the authorities to intrude on privacy without needed oversight.

More companies should follow Microsoft’s example. The company has a global team available whenever needed to help fulfil legal requests, and in this case only took 30 minutes to verify the warrant’s validity before providing help to authorities in accessing the information. This is an ethical approach which respects user privacy while meeting legal obligations to help authorities bring criminals to justice or protect innocent citizens.

“Our global team is on call 24/7 and responds when it receives a proper and lawful order,” says Brad Smith, President and Legal Officer, Microsoft. “This of course is different from helping a government outside the rule of law to turn over private information or hack or attack a customer, which we’ve said clearly we will not do. We’re committed both to protecting public safety and safeguarding personal privacy, and we believe that proper legal process is the key to striking this balance.”

The exact information which Microsoft provided to authorities has not been disclosed, as you’d expect. The Met Police reports it seized 2,700 items which included ‘massive amounts of computer data’ in searches at 16 properties, and it’s likely Microsoft provided some assistance with accessing this data.

Microsoft published the following statement:

“Microsoft confirmed that it had received last week lawful orders seeking email information relating to the terrorist attack in London, and that it had promptly provided the information requested. This follows prompt action when Microsoft responded to 14 lawful requests following the November 2015 terrorist attack in Paris and the Paris attack on Charlie Hebdo in January 2015.”

Amber Rudd will be summoning the leaders of technology companies to a meeting on Thursday 30th March to discuss how to make it easier for authorities to access their data. She wants companies to cooperate voluntarily, but has refused to rule out using legislation to force them into doing so if agreements cannot be reached.