back to article *Microsoft taps your shoulder* Hi sorry yeah, we're still suing US govt for right to tell people when they are spied on

When it comes to valiant defenders of the people from American spies there are many names that spring to mind. Microsoft is perhaps not typically one of them – though Redmond, if you had forgotten, is still battling the US government in a fight over cloud subscriber privacy. After Edward Snowden's 2013 revelations about the …

  1. sbt Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Classic misdirection and virtue signalling

    While I agree that folks should be made aware of search warrants served on their assets regardless of where their assets are held, surely MS are fighting this since it would make things easier for them and because it's a good PR story that requires no sacrifice on their part viz. data collection.

    1. canthinkofagoodname

      Re: Classic misdirection and virtue signalling

      That may be the case, but if the desired outcome for everyone involved is protection of their data and privacy from overly-broad access and disclosure requests from Government, does Redmond's motivation matter?

      1. sbt Silver badge
        Windows

        Does Redmond's motivation matter?

        Yes. The public shouldn't be surrendering its role as advocates for freedom and privacy to corporations, which already have an outsized influence on law and public policy. We're short on public interest journalism since the mavens of the new economy have hollowed out the traditional media's revenue streams; the same concerns apply with corporate lobbyists and amici curiae displacing PI groups representing the wider public in making laws and fighting lawsuits.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: Does Redmond's motivation matter?

          The fact that Microsoft is fighting this battle doesn't stop the public from ALSO fighting that battle. Are you suggesting that Microsoft should just keep quiet? How would that be better?

          1. sbt Silver badge
            Meh

            Well, why is hypocrisy bad?

            I'd rather, if they're going to fight these battles, they do it with some credibility. I'd rather not rely on the coincidental alignment of corporate interests or PR opportunities to get good public policy. I'd rather not have corporations with little regard for their customers' privacy whitewash their reputations. I'd rather not give the general public an excuse for apathy.

    2. jmch Silver badge

      Re: Classic misdirection and virtue signalling

      "While I agree that folks should be made aware of search warrants served on their assets"

      There are some instances eg money laundering investigations, where it is absolutely essential that those being investigated do not know that they are being investigated. The case MS is making, and I agree, isn't that secret search warrants exist, but the breadth and scope of their use.

      1. sbt Silver badge
        WTF?

        The files of others

        I'm not convinced; why should your organisation's files in a data centre (operated by Microsoft, for example) have less protection than some in your office server, which LEOs would have to serve your organisation with a search warrant to obtain (and therefore not secretly)?

        That's a perverse incentive not to outsource.

        1. Grooke

          Re: The files of others

          > That's a perverse incentive not to outsource.

          Good

    3. phuzz Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: Classic misdirection and virtue signalling

      "requires no sacrifice on their part"

      Because lawyers are notoriously cheap to hire right?

      1. sbt Silver badge
        Facepalm

        no sacrifice on their part...

        "... viz. data collection" to complete the context.

        I never claimed that MS weren't spending money, or even that they should not. To be clear, I was impugning their motives.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Classic misdirection and virtue signalling

      surely MS are fighting this since it would make things easier for them and because it's a good PR story that requires no sacrifice on their part viz. data collection.

      Exactly. Let's not forget that they were actively involved in the creation of the Cloud Act 2018.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The UK parliament has replaced the landline telephones in MPs offices with Skype for Business, a Microsoft service.

    1. Saruman the White

      Not for long - MS is in the process of replacing Skype for Business with another crappy service.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        May I suggest..

        A piece of string and two cans? I can almost guarantee that it's easier to use and has a superior call quality.

        Also doesn't suffer from background noise so much or have issues with deciding which microphone to use.

        Anonymous because otherwise you'll all know I have to use Skype for business...

        1. Tigra 07 Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: May I suggest..

          "A piece of string and two cans"

          Are these secure from wire string tapping?

        2. garou1674
          Big Brother

          Re: May I suggest..

          Said background noise is just <insert National Security Office of flavor here> just listening in. Gotta make sure that you are doing things above board and all that :).

  3. Free treacle

    Microsoft *really* fighting for users?

    I've heard of living long enough to see yourself become the villain, but living even longer until you become a hero again is an interesting twist

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Microsoft *really* fighting for users?

      Of course not. They lobbied for the CLOUD Act so they could wash their hands of the problem.

  4. not.known@this.address Bronze badge
    Big Brother

    Judges are human too

    And subject to the same biases as the rest of us, despite some people seeming to think they are above partisan interference in matters that should not go to a court of law. And they certainly shouldn't think their laws should be used to judge people in another country - something that doesn't just apply to "Team America".

    Does the government's "right" to spy on the people transcend the people's right to know they are being spied upon? Maybe yes, maybe no depending on circumstances - but if you don't like it, find a candidate who will stand on a platform of open government with full transparency of such things and vote for that candidate. Just remember that some politicians have been known to make promises (and laws) that they conveniently forget after they get elected... Of course, you can always unseat them at the *next* election - unless they block it.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      "Some" politicians?

      Can you name any politicians to a major office of a major country who have campaigned on open government and transparency and done ANYTHING to keep that promise? I can't think of any.

      Bush did a lot of shady things in the aftermath of 9/11, and Obama ran promising transparency. Instead he doubled down on the Bush era abuses, until Snowden exposed how far both had taken things. Trump ran promising transparency, and he's been the least transparent president ever, with his administration asserting "executive privilege" for everything trying to stonewall congressional investigations.

      I'm sure whichever democrat ends up the nominee will promise transparency, but unless these broad executive privilege claims are taken to court and shot down AND provide an effective method to force compliance (i.e. the court orders are obeyed, and non-compliant members of an administration can't simply be pardoned for violating them) AND they can't using stonewalling and going to court as a way of delaying every investigation we can look forward to that democratic nominee using that as a roadmap for how its administration will deal with congressional oversight.

      1. jmch Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: "Some" politicians?

        "Can you name any politicians to a major office of a major country who have campaigned on open government and transparency and done ANYTHING to keep that promise?"

        The case of Jim Hacker is quite instructive

      2. not.known@this.address Bronze badge

        Re: "Some" politicians?

        DougS replied (to me :-)) "Can you name any politicians to a major office of a major country who have campaigned on open government and transparency and done ANYTHING to keep that promise?"

        Unfortunately I can't, and in all honesty I probably wouldn't vote for them if I did. I live in a world where there are some bad people who think it okay to do nasty things to others just for disagreeing with them, and the best way to catch them is by picking them up in the planning & preparation stage - which unfortunately means spying on everyone to a degree (since the Bad Guys don't always wear black hats despite what the old Westerns might imply ;-)).

        Any politician who promises never to ever do anything in secret is either incredibly naïve or a bare-faced liar - either way, not a good quality to have in someone who is supposed to be looking after the interests of other people...

        1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

          Re: "Some" politicians?

          "Gentlemen do not read each other's mail."

          That's the guy that drug us into WWI.

        2. DougS Silver badge

          Re: "Some" politicians?

          I live in a world where there are some bad people who think it okay to do nasty things to others just for disagreeing with them

          If you believe that, maybe that's the real problem you need to solve. Why is there a small segment of Islam that's become radicalized against the west? Maybe it has something to do with the US, UK and other countries bringing them war, propping up repressive governments, and so forth.

          Given how some of Trump's cronies (not sure about him personally) are itching to go to war against Iran, and how Trump prostrates himself before Saudi Arabia, it is obvious we (in the US at least) still haven't learned this lesson. Nobody needs to use email or phones to plan terrorist activities, if we could catch every wannabe terrorist that does so, they'd simply adapt and send letters through the post, plan activities in person, or operate as lone wolves so they didn't have to worry about their communications being intercepted. Spying on them is not going to prevent it, even if we could do it with 100% efficacy, which we can't no matter how 1984 our government becomes against us. And it says a lot about anyone who is willing to accept that spying in exchange for some imagined security.

  5. David Shaw

    there be squirrels

    Having been invited to attend several standards development meetings of the committee for the Lawful Interception of telecommunications for my work in an oversight body, it was mildly amusing to be called to my local bank branch a couple of years later.

    I attended the bank, and had a kilo of paperwork thrust at me, "purely routine" 'privacy regulations' "sign here, here & here to accept an anti-terrorism probe of all of your life, family, money & everything" - so I signed with a smile. (I have yet to find any other colleagues, out of the approx 46K in my work, who had to similarly undergo such a "routine" procedure)

    Thank goodness for Italian privacy laws, as the rest of my 'spooky followers' & service-providers have not yet got around to mentioning that I am being followed/pinged/bulk-personal-datasetted etc, perhaps an oversight on their part?

    [it continues, as I received 2 (instantly deleted) WhatsApp messages at 22:41 & 22:44 CET on Wednesday 17th April, and a quickly dropped call from the same +39.3347320513 - the weeks before WhatsApp was updated to protect against the “buffer overflow vulnerability in WhatsApp VOIP stack which allowed remote code execution via specially crafted series of SRTCP packets sent to a target phone number,” _ I have of course called the 'owner' of that number, and a startled young person in a rather echoey room answered, but could neither confirm nor deny that he knew anything about anything.]

    there be $$$

  6. Nick Kew Silver badge

    Industrial Espionage

    Interesting phrase: "... a lawsuit the company filed in 2018 to defend the rights of an undisclosed enterprise customer".

    Hmmm. Does "Enterprise" in this context imply corporate? So that's not a terrorist suspect, it's someone conducting regular commercial business. Like for example NHS Business Services, who are an MS customer (evidence I'm aware of: their email is at outlook.com).

    A US Government target for ... what kind of espionage?

    Or of course it could be a Usual Suspect like Amnesty or Greenpeace (I've no idea if either of those is actually an MS customer) or a foreign government.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Industrial Espionage

      For your example of the NHS... I'd say finding areas where they can bring American companies in to privatise parts of it.

      You have to remember that if you get big enough in America you can have the government work for you.

  7. Claptrap314 Silver badge
    Trollface

    "An enterprise customer

    headquartered in New Jersey, whose CEO used to work in the automotive industry, with branches in Maryland, and Washington state, founded in 1997,...."

  8. RudderLessIT
    Megaphone

    Since we are all just throwing rocks here

    Just re-reading this article, looking for references to the other big companies and what they are doing in the fight for privacy (and not just rolling over for a tummy rub).... hmmm AWS? Apple? Google? IBM? Oracle? Bueller?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Four Decade MainFrame Warrior

    Is there nothing left untouched, unspoiled or un-corrupted?

    No wonder we die so young.

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