Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Microsoft Takes Down Whistleblower Site Over Leaked Surveillance Compliance Document

Via -

Microsoft has managed to do what a roomful of secretive, three-letter government agencies have wanted to do for years: get the whistleblowing, government-document sharing site Cryptome shut down.

Microsoft dropped a DMCA notice alleging copyright infringement on Cryptome’s proprietor John Young on Tuesday after he posted a Microsoft surveillance compliance document that the company gives to law enforcement agents seeking information on Microsoft users. Young filed a counterclaim on Wednesday — arguing he had a fair use to publishing the document, a full day before the Thursday deadline set by his hosting provider, Network Solutions.

Regardless, Cryptome was shut down by Network Solutions and its domain name locked on Wednesday — shuttering a site that thumbed its nose at the government since 1996 — posting thousands of documents that the feds would prefer never saw the light of day.

Microsoft did not return a call for comment by press time.

The 22-page document (.pdf) contains no trade secrets, but will tell Microsoft users things they didn’t know.


The compliance handbook is just the latest in a series of leaks of similar documents from other companies. Yahoo, like Microsoft, reacted as if its secret sauce had somehow been spilled by letting curious users know the hows and whys of how the companies deal with lawful surveillance requests. Google, for all its crusading for internet freedom, refuses to say how often law enforcement comes searching for user data.

The one company who has had a stand-up policy for years is the Cox Communications’ ISP, which has had this information and their price list public for years.

But hypocrisy is the name of the game for giant internet companies like Yahoo, Microsoft and Google that want us to entrust large portions of our lives to Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Buzz, Xbox, Hotmail, Messenger, Google Groups. When it comes to the most basic information about how, why and how often our data is subpoenaed and collected without our knowledge, these online innovators resort to lawyers, abusive legal process and double-talk.


The leaked document is also accessible via

Cindy Cohn of the Electronic Frontier Foundation said in a call today, "We find it troubling that copyright law is being invoked here. Microsoft doesn't sell this manual. There's no market for this work. It's not a copyright issue. John's copying of it is fair use... We don't do this anywhere else in speech law."

Cohn also noted she feels the reason Microsoft actually wants the document removed from the Web is because, for a large corporation with millions of users and an aggressive PR agenda, the document raises concerns and sparks conversations the company would rather not confront.

"It's part of a very intense political debate about the role of intermediary companies like Microsoft aiding surveillance for law enforcement. It's embarrassing for Microsoft for their users to see how much the people who carry their email have arrangements with law enforcement... All of the people who carry our communications are an easy conduit for our government to spy on us, and a lot of people are unhappy about that. It's a legitimate public debate, and Microsoft doesn't want to be part of that debate."

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