While downward revising the number of government surveillance requests it received, Microsoft’s transparency report makes for an interesting read.
Microsoft Corp stated it had wrongly reported a sharp increase in U.S. government surveillance requests during the first half of 2016, and has revised its figures to show that the level of requests have remained at the same levels to the previous year.
“Microsoft corrected the mistake as soon as we realized it was made to ensure the accuracy of our reporting,” said Microsoft in an official blog post. “We’ve put additional safeguards in place to ensure the numbers we report are correct. We apologize for the error.”
Microsoft has alluded to human input error as the cause of the misreported numbers.
The U.S. government allows companies to report the volume of FISA requests only in wide bands rather than specific numbers.
In recent weeks, the scope of surveillance granted to U.S. intelligence agencies under FISA has come under renewed scrutiny, sparked, in part by evolving and unsubstantiated assertions by President Donald Trump, that the Obama administration led White House had improperly spied on Trump and his associates.
FISA orders, which are approved by judges who sit on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, are considered national security secrets. Even the very existence of specific FISA orders are rarely disclosed.
Earlier this month, the Washington Post had reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had obtained a FISA order to monitor the communications of Carter Page, a former Trump adviser, as part of an investigation into the Trump’s presidential campaign possible links with Russia.
Significantly, parts of FISA are set to expire at the end of this year, unless of course U.S. lawmakers vote to maintain and keep it in place.
Privacy advocates in Congress have been working hard to attach a set of transparency and oversight reforms to any FISA legislation as well as limit the scope of government searches of American data which are incidentally collected during foreign surveillance operations.
In its transparency report, for the first time, Microsoft has reported that it had received a type of warrantless surveillance order from the FBI.