Considering the current event oriented news about Snowden, it really shouldn’t be a big surprise for us to learn that Microsoft gave the NSA access to encrypted messages. Yup, Microsoft has been listening in on your Skype calls and reading all that sexting you’ve been doing at work. And pretty soon, they’ll have eyes in your living room.
In the files from Edward Snowden (who, by the way, has been granted asylum by Venezuela), we are given more info about Prism – the NSA’s super surveillance program. Essentially, Microsoft helped the NSA get around its encryption so that they could monitor web chats on Outlook.com, gave pre-encryption access to email, and now it appears that they have also given the NSA access to all Skype interactions.
Blanket orders from the secret surveillance court allow these communications to be collected without an individual warrant if the NSA operative has a 51% belief that the target is not a US citizen and is not on US soil at the time. Targeting US citizens does require an individual warrant, but the NSA is able to collect Americans’ communications without a warrant if the target is a foreign national located overseas.
Since Prism’s existence became public, Microsoft and the other companies listed on the NSA documents as providers have denied all knowledge of the program and insisted that the intelligence agencies do not have back doors into their systems.
But internal NSA newsletters, marked top secret, suggest the co-operation between the intelligence community and the companies is deep and ongoing.
It just makes me wonder what the plans are with the Xbox One. It will have awesome Skype interface, as Microsoft keeps telling us. It will also have a Kinect that’s strong enough to pick up on your heartbeat and the dilation of pupils. Does this mean that the NSA will be able to watch you rage at the screen when you get owned? Will they monitor your comments to see if you’re un-American or making treasonous statements? It all just seems a little too much like big brother if you ask me. Bad enough that we’re getting spied on via email and Skype – not sure I want to willingly accept the spy cam into my home. Microsoft can give plenty of assurances about privacy, but the reality is that when the NSA asks for something, they make an offer you can’t refuse.