Microsoft barricades data against NSA

Microsoft has announced new steps to protect its users from government surveillance, including by the National Security Agency (NSA).

In a blog post late Wednesday, Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith said the company is "especially alarmed" by recent reports about the U.S. government's attempts to "to circumvent online security measures — and in our view, legal processes and protections — in order to surreptitiously collect private customer data."

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In response, Microsoft said it will expand encryption for its products, reinforce legal protections for user data and increase transparency around the company's software code.

The company said it will take those steps even though it has "no direct evidence that customer data has been breached by unauthorized government access," according to Smith.

Microsoft vowed to fight for the ability to tell users when the government is requesting their data.

"We are committed to notifying business and government customers if we receive legal orders related to their data," Smith wrote.

"Where a gag order attempts to prohibit us from doing this" — gag orders typically accompany government requests for user data for national security purposes — "we will challenge it in court," he said.

Finally, Smith said Microsoft will "increase transparency by building on our long-standing program that provides government customers with an appropriate ability to review our source code, reassure themselves of its integrity, and confirm there are no back doors."

Microsoft will open "transparency centers" in Europe, Asia and the Americas to "provide these customers with even greater ability to assure themselves of the integrity of Microsoft’s products," Smith said.

"We believe these new steps strike the right balance, advancing for all of us both the security we need and the privacy we deserve."