Secret invoices from Microsoft to the FBI obtained via hacks by the Syrian Electronic Army reveal the Silicon Valley giant charges a secret division of the bureau for legal access to users’ information.
The army has become notorious for infiltrating the networks and social media accounts of western companies and media outlets in recent years, and submitted the documents to The Daily Dot for analysis. Its most recent Microsoft hack took place in January, when the organization seized Microsoft’s Twitter and email accounts, reportedly to distract employees while achieving its “main mission.”
Emails and invoices between the FBI’s Digital Intercept Technology Unit and Microsoft’s Global Criminal Compliance team show a charge between $50 and $200 for access to customer information, with totals stretching into the hundreds of thousands of dollars – the most recent from November 2013 topping out at $281,000.
A specialist cited by the Dot confirmed the authenticity of the documents, but neither Microsoft nor the FBI would confirm or deny their contents.
“Regarding law enforcement requests, there’s nothing unusual here,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a Verge report. “Under U.S. law, companies can seek reimbursement for costs associated with complying with valid legal orders for customer data. We attempt to recover some of the costs associated with any such orders.”
Microsoft apparently processes hundreds of these requests monthly in a process that appears to be just another order of business – a stark contrast from its vehement public outcries against bulk National Security Agency surveillance programs that collect similar user data.
During a Wednesday hearing, NSA’s chief legal counsel revealed tech giants like Microsoft were fully aware of and complied with the agency’s sweeping Internet surveillance PRISM program – a claim Microsoft, along with numerous other companies have denied since the leaks began last summer.
Microsoft clearly has no qualms with using its vast accumulation of personal customer data to turn an extra profit — the company advertised a new campaign at CPAC two weeks ago offering to use customer data to sell highly targeted political ads on Xbox Live.
The Syrian Electronic Army’s latest leaks seem to imply the only separation between Microsoft’s public stance and private acquiesence appears to be a paycheck.