UK law enforcement agencies made more requests for data about Skype users than any other country, according to a report by Microsoft.
In 2012, British authorities made 1,268 applications for data on 2,720 Skype users - but Microsoft did not disclose any information about the content of communications.
For other Microsoft services, such as Hotmail and Outlook, the UK made the third most requests for data – 9,226 applications on 14,301 citizens – compared to the 48 other countries on the list, and was given more information.
Some 76.5% of requests resulted in “non-content” data being revealed, which includes account information such as email addresses, names, gender, country of residence, or system-generated data like IP addresses. This equates to 7,057 of the requests being answered.
However, of the 2,119 “customer content” requests made – data which could include details of email content or subject lines – no details were revealed to the authorities.
Most requests to Microsoft made by a country's law enforcement organisations
The report from Microsoft – entitled 2012 Law Enforcement Requests Report – is the first from the Redmond firm, despite a number of other web companies already revealing similar data.
Microsoft said it had learnt from the experiences of Google, Twitter and other companies which had published their figures, but now it was time for its services to become just as transparent.
“We’ve benefited from the opportunity to learn from them and their experience, and we seek to build further on the industry’s commitment to transparency by releasing our own data,” wrote Brad Smith, executive vice president of legal and corporate affairs at Microsoft on the company’s blog.
The report shows the most requests for data on citizens were made by authorities in Turkey – 11,434. However, US law enforcers asked about more citizens – 11,073 requests on 24,565 citizens – and gained the most information.
The US was given customer content on 1,544 of its requests - by comparison, the next highest number of requests granted was seven, given to Brazil.
We believe that law enforcement requests for information from an enterprise customer are best directed to that customer rather than a tech company that happens to host that customer’s data
Brad Smith, executive vice president of legal and corporate affairs, Microsoft
“Of the 1,558 disclosures of customer content, more than 99% were in response to lawful warrants from courts in the United States,” said Smith. “In fact, there were only 14 disclosures of customer content to governments outside the United States. These were to governments in Brazil, Ireland, Canada and New Zealand.”
Smith also revealed very few enterprise customers were involved in these disclosures due to the stance Microsoft is taking.
“We addressed last year a total of only 11 law enforcement requests for information relating to Microsoft’s enterprise customers,” he wrote.
“In general, we believe that law enforcement requests for information from an enterprise customer are best directed to that customer rather than a tech company that happens to host that customer’s data. That way, the customer’s legal department can engage directly with law enforcement personnel to address the issue.”