Microsoft awarded top marks for protecting user data from prying governments

Microsoft has been heavily involved with other tech companies in fighting for customers' privacy rights in the courts and congress in the US. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which publishes a Who Has Your Back report each year, has awarded Microsoft (among a handful of other companies) with top marks when it comes to protecting user data against government officials.

The report grades technology companies on how they handle customer data access requests, put forward by government. Microsoft met all six factors included in the report, which each listing is graded by. The company scored full marks across the board on the following:

  • Requires a warrant for content
  • Tells users about government data requests
  • Publishes transparency reports
  • Publishes law enforcement guidelines
  • Fights for users' privacy rights in court
  • Fights for users' privacy rights in congress

Microsoft has previously announced the company has nothing to do with programs including PRISM, reassuring customers that all data is safe and they will be notified should government officials request data. Other companies have also been vocal about protecting user data. Apple, CREDO Mobile, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Sonic, Twitter and Yahoo all joined Microsoft in receiving the full six stars.

Security Glasses

Microsoft was also praised for improvements made through the years (the company only had a single star in the 2012 report), and the company appears to be actively open to feedback on said issues. Contrast to the success of a select few, MySpace, AT&T and all scored a measly two stars, while Snapchat ended up with only a single star – not a positive end result for the private image sharing service.

The tech giant received a total of 37,196 requests from law enforcement agencies in the first six months of 2013. These requests affected 66,539 accounts on Hotmail,, OneDrive, Xbox Live, Microsoft Account, Office 365 and Skype. It's noted that only a select number of these requests were actually fulfilled with the disclosure of customer data.

Be sure to read through the full report over on EFF.

Source: EFF, via: WinBeta

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.

  • Hmmmm
  • And that just after Snowden Leaks reported that they allowed access to the NSA on Onedrive and Outlook as well as Skype.
  • Snowden says, but I don't thinks it's 100 % true all what is comming fromhis mouth, maybe parts. But anyway deep respect for him.  
  • He doesnt say this. Those are slights his webcrawler took of the NSA intranet. All the Data is just being analyzed by the papers. So I guess you are okay with all the giving away of your freedom for a bit of security, right?
  • I wouldn't trust everything that The Guardian prints. They have far left agenda and seriously lack objectivity.
  • Good thing the files are not just with the guardian. But best keep on believe in the things your government thinks. They never want the best for themselves but just for you :)
  • And to demonise "governments" into a single entity with always negative motives is at best juvenile. Governments and law enforcement have a very difficult job balancing privacy rights (nobodys fundamental liberty has changed or alledged by Snowdon, only data snooping) a the trying to protect citizens (from their fellow citizens) There are many good people in government, local or central in many countries. Its a thankless task (like working in IT). What exactly does an MP get for looking at your data? A Yacht? a Ferrari?  No, you get a boring report which you hope your agencies can do something useful with like stop terrorism or weed out fraudsters or other criminals. You've got a bit of growing up to do Adrian.
  • Well - seems like i am grown up enough to know what privacy means to me unlike to you.  
  • Well said hwangeruk.  Everything is a conspiracy to some people.  Sometimes I wonder if they have ever voted or have been involved at any level in a political process of some sort. Anybody who thinks governing is easy should involve themselves with local issues, maybe even run for an office and use their mouth for something constructive for a change, that's what I say.  Or try to bid on a government contract and go through the resulting almost insurmountable tangle of red tape that is necessitated in large part by complaints from people like themselves.
  • With the difference that this is not a conspiracy but facts that have been made public
  • Just because you have a "fact" does not mean that you understand the whole story.  It's in taking these facts out of their context and into your own to paint a picture of an oppressive government that the conspiracy part comes in. I'm all for privacy too.  But it's not the government I'm worried about.  I'm far more concerned with glasshole-ing catching on.  I hate the fact that there is essentially no privacy anywhere except inside my house.  But that's the world we live in today.  
  • Back many years ago the Reichstag was doing a simple census. What harm could it do asked name address religion. Those dam conspiracy people what harm could that do.
    when the time came Hitler knew where to start. It was harmless information.
    you then had mr McCarthy searching for those pinkos. How many list there jobs. There lively hood. Those dam conspiracy. Theories.. I mean government. Would never gas people or round up there own citizens.
    Richard Nixon and Watergate a president. Would never commit espionage to win a election. Those dam conspiracy. Reporters at that liberal. Washington. Post. Smearing. Our president.
    wmd .. And now the spying. Know your history. Before. U make such ridiculous. Comments.
    its nit ok. That's why u have search. Warrents and proper. Channels specifically. Outlined. In the constitution. No one is above it and the end does. Mot justify the means.
  • Really, comparing what's happening here to the Third Reich?  That is truly ridiculous and shows no understanding of history or how our government works. What happened exactly when Nixon was caught?  Oh yeah, that's right, he was impeached, the system worked as intended.  Probably not the best example again, huh? Knowing events obviously does not constitute an understanding of history or our political processes.  Thanks for proving that. Right or wrong, the legalities of what is going on now will be fully debated and ultimately decided by the people who elect officials, I can guarantee you that.    
  • Did not know the amendments of the constitution were liberal.. Oh I forgot in your mind they all must be except for the right to bear arms. Something. Is either correct or not has nothing to do with red or blue. Sad you cannot. See that.
  • Microsoft always uses protection
  • I saw what you did there.
  • Lol, i saw it too!
  • Me too!
  • Can it hold on if thngs get messs
  • LOL!
  • Me too
  • Could you imagine if they didn't? We'd have mini-Ballmers running around!
  • Never heard of that thing before. Suddenly it is made public and they now have a reward. It will be interesting to see who occupies the top spot before, that is I'd that thing ever exist before.
  • There is no "reward". The EFF has been surveying companies every year for a while now. Then they publish a report on who did the best. If you read the last sentence in the third paragraph, you will see that Apple and Google among others got the same as MS. The reason for the article about is I believe this is the first year that MS has received all 6 stars.
  • We already know how good microsoft is,when it comes to not shocked to see them win that....
  • Well, as long as Microsoft doesn't get involved with privacy scandals im okay with windows phone.
  • Where does Mobile Nations rate?
  • Nowhere, that's not the kind of company they looked in to as far as I can tell :P I imagine they aren't big enough nor do they really collect enough data on us to merit being included with most of these companies (Snapchat seems like it would be irregularly small as well although they're kind of all about private images so maybe it makes sense).
  • If google gets full marks as well then there should be something wrong with that system xD
  • Exactly my thoughts. If Google gets max points, then I definitely wouldn't trust the credibility of the awards.
  • This report only said that companies would require a warrant before they would give up your data to the Government, and these companies would tell you if they actually had a warrant for your data from the Government. It didn't take into account that the Government could simply buy your data from companies such as Google and Facebook. I would like to see a seventh star for companies that sell your data for profit. It would be interesting to see who still gets full marks then.
  • It is one thing to sell your info to companies that paid for it and you agreed to when signing up for the service, and a totally different thing when the goverment just goes to them and says "I want this guy's data". But yes, when I look at privacy I certainly don't look at Google :)
  • This report only talks about how the companies deal with government when it comes to user privacy, they don't look into the companies selling your data to other 3rd parties.
  • This is the best news I've heard all day. Of course, it's early.
  • Proud of you Microsoft :)
  • ironically how they receive the most flak from random commenters for supposedly giving away data freely and willingly
  • I'd put that motion into play for all the companies who received top marks.
  • This is why I use WP.
  • F*** you Google!
  • What is this Google, a kind of insect ?
  • What is this Google, is it a kind of insect.
  • This sounds like a bad joke after the reveal yesterday that Microsoft apparently worked closely with the FBI to give them direct access to Outlook, Skype and OneDrive. I really love my Windows Phone and the whole Windows ecosystem, but frankly, it's not logical to use the operating systems of a company that I don't think I can trust.
  • *posted by OMGUbuntu*
  • Not sure what that is supposed to mean? I don't even use Ubuntu.
  • You can't deny FBI and other agencies access if they have legal warrant.
  • There is a difference between giving them access to the absolutely needed and actively cooperating (apparently) in making access easier.
  • It's worse than a bad joke... it's MS propaganda.  Welcome to WPCentral!
  • How is it propaganda? It's a report by the FFE, not Microsoft.
  • And where is teh link to this news. I searched and only found that Microsoft was charging for access. They are allowed to charge for the cost associating with executing a warrant. Show me the article that says Microsoft was either providing access without a warrant or providing access that was outside the scope of the warrant.
  • I can't seem to be able to post links for some reason? However, the article I saw cited as source for the news is on from May 13th. The documents say the FBI worked "many months" with Microsoft to enable direct access through PRISM to Skype, Outlook and OneDrive (then SkyDrive). The fact is nothing really new actually, as at least Skype was explicitly mentioned in the past as being part of PRISM (though I'm not sure the ability to bypass the encryption was mentioned before). Also I'm not pretending Microsoft is worse than other companies participating in PRISM about this. Of course we don't know how far Microsoft has been pressurized to make direct access easier and how far it's been done voluntarily. However, Microsoft repeatedly assured it gave no direct access to any governments to their services or the ability to break their encryption, which these documents prove to be wrong (assuming they are real but I don't think that's being seriously questioned).
  • It's from Glenn Greenwald's new book, just released.
  • So, what are you going to use? Google? Apple? They all complied with the NSA because they are legally required to comply.
  • If I decide to move away from Microsoft, it certainly won't be to either of those companies.
  • AT&T and Comcast don't even require a warrant for a request? Glad I'm not using either of them!
  • I am more concerned about the data private companies are collecting, not just the main ones like Microsoft, Google, etc, but the marketing data scavengers in between as well that harvest from cookies and other sources and most people don't even know they exist. Also Microsoft is no saint, just read their Cortana Privacy Policy, it's disgusting how much they collect to suposedly improve the service, and there is no way to opt out from helping them improve the service if you want to use it. I for one don't want every word I say to Cortana be transmited and analysed by Microsoft.  
  • I don't think your mobile processor can handle processing and understanding your voice fast enough so if you want any kind of voice control like Cortana you'll need to live with that.
  • By prying government you mean US government right.
  • Heh, according to media, but I wouldn't count other countries out.
  • Well done Microsoft. And using Boxcryptor or similar software makes it even more secure to use the cloud. Just in case MS feels like scanning my data stored on OneDrive.
  • Too bad you can't use that on a Windows Phone.
  • You can. It has been available for iOS and Android for a long time and came to WP some weeks ago.
  • Oh, wow, that's great to know, thank you! :) Does it work well with the built-in OneDrive sync on Windows 8.1?
  • I can't say. It's new on Windows Phone and Windows 8.1 as well so I wanted to wait a bit before using it to avoid early bugs. The ratings so far look ok.
  • Suck it Google
  • Well, good for both Microsoft and its Consumers!!
  • FINALLY, MSFT is first at something in 2014
  • when it comes to Privacy, you should not even tell your secrets to your blood relations.
    But we, the Human beings, are great RISK takers..!
    so, just thumbs up (y) for MS..:) we have a little faith in you!
  • A headline you'll never see on the likes of Engadget.
  • When an US based organization gives marks to other US based organizations and includes Google in the best ones then there is to worry about the marks. All of these companies are US based. All their servers are in the US and this already is enough to worry anyone outside the US. Google in particular, but also MSFT have long been working hand in hand with the government with the car of Windows having specific backdoors since 1998. Even MSFT encryption on Windows 8 and 8.1 is not safe for the same reasons. Dropbox recently changed its terms and conditions to reflect the fact they need to comply with US govt requests. I closed my dropbox account and moved my data to an EU operator. Same is for OneDrive. Essentially you need to use their devices and their services but your can't trust any of these companies, which in turn also limits the use you make of their devices. Google is set to become an US defense supplier, too. There is no reason why they shouldn't cooperate. So I beg to think these awards are pure crap
  • Tha NSA are in tha way
  • sorry but it's crap and just a facade. MS were the first to offer, ie. - they weren't approached by big brother and help set up infrastructure all over the place to for facial/voice recognition, etc. And let's not forget all those backdoors