/// A Closer Look at Microsoft’s FISA Disclosure Numbers

June 15, 2013  |  All Things Digital

Late last night software giant Microsoft joined Facebook in disclosing the total number of requests for information it received from government agencies in the US. The numbers, shared in a company blog post , covering the final six months of 2012, are slightly higher than Facebook’s. As with Facebook’s disclosure on Friday night, Microsoft’s new figures include the number of requests made by law enforcement and national security agencies under the auspices of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The disclosures were worked out as the result of a deal between the companies and government agencies because under current US law, such disclosures are illegal. Microsoft said it received between 6,000 and 7,000 requests for information from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in the United States. The affected number of accounts was between 31,000 and 32,000. Before adding six months’ worth of FISA requests to the overall statistical bucket, Microsoft had previously disclosed in its 2012 Law Enforcement Requests Report that it had received 11,073 requests for infomation affecting 24,565 accounts from government entities in the US during all 12 months of 2012. These requests covered the following services: Hotmail ad Outlook.com, SkyDrive, Xbox LIVE, Microsoft Account, Messenger and Office 365. Skype was reported separately in part because before Microsoft bought it in 2011 , it was tracking this data differently. Assuming a consistent run rate, the difference between FISA-inclusive and the non-FISA numbers would suggest a difference of no more than about 3,000 overall requests per year. But when taking into account the average number of accounts affected per request, the picture changes. In its FISA-inclusive figures for the second half of the year, Microsoft averaged between four and five accounts affected per request. That’s about double the average of 2.2 accounts per request in the earlier data that didn’t include FISA requests. (Facebook, in its FISA-inclusive disclosure, averaged about 2 accounts per request.) What this suggests is that requests made to Microsoft by government agencies made under FISA tend to cover multiple accounts more often than in non-FISA cases. Why the higher average? It’s unclear. But here’s another bit of data that may tell part of the story

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A Closer Look at Microsoft’s FISA Disclosure Numbers

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