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Skype, Xbox Snooping Requests Revealed

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By Andrew Lu on March 25, 2013 5:55 AM

Is the government snooping on your Skype, Xbox, Hotmail, or other Microsoft accounts? If so, how often does it happen?

After receiving criticism for its lack of transparency, Microsoft has released information regarding government surveillance of its services, reports Slate. Microsoft follows other tech giants like Google and Twitter in making such information public.

By the Numbers

The report reveals that in 2012, Microsoft and Skype received a total of 75,378 law enforcement requests for user information. Of those, 4,713 requests specifically targeted Skype. The requests affected 137,424 users.

Though the government made thousands of requests, Microsoft revealed that only 2.2% of requests resulted in the company turning over any content.

In fact, Microsoft says that in 18% of cases, no data was reported at all, while in almost 80% of the cases, only "non-content" data was revealed. No Skype content was disclosed in 2012.

Types of Data Requested

Microsoft defined "non-content" data as basic subscriber information, such as a user's e-mail address, first and last names, and IP address captured at the time of registration. Personal information like gender, age, and even your credit card and billing information may also be revealed -- though Microsoft requires legal documentation like a subpoena before turning over this information.

As for "content" data, Microsoft defines this to include what customers create, communicate, and store through their services like Hotmail and SkyDrive. The company requires a court order or search warrant from law enforcement before disclosing this content.

Microsoft users should know that even without a request from law enforcement, the company may be able to turn over content or non-content data on its own accord. For example, if the company suspects that a child is being abused or that someone is about to harm himself, the company may voluntarily release this information to law enforcement.

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