Australian authorities seek more Microsoft customer data

Microsoft's latest transparency report showed it received 1,281 legal order requests from Australian authorities during the latter half of the 2013.

The global number of law enforcement requests received by Microsoft for across all of the company's services, including Skype, dropped during the second half from July to December of the 2013 calendar year, according to the third Microsoft law enforcement requests report.

The latest report, which details the number of legal demands for customer data that Microsoft received from law enforcement agencies around the world, showed there were a total of 35,083 requests received from law enforcement agencies potentially impacting 58,676 accounts — a drop from the first half of 2013, where 37,196 total requests were made. Of that, approximately 76 percent of requests resulted in the disclosure of only "non-content data", such as a user's name, billing address, or IP history, while in 21 percent of requests, no data was disclosed at all.

Australia was in the top 10 countries with the most requests. In the latter half of 2013, there were 1,281 law enforcement requests that impacted 1,419 accounts — up from the first half, which recorded only 1,219 requests. Of those, 82.1 percent resulted in the disclosure of only "non-content data", while 15.6 percent of requests showed that no data was found.

In the APAC region, aside from Australia, Taiwan had the next highest total requests of 568, which impacted 1,169 accounts, with 80.8 percent making up of "non-content data". This is a decrease from the first half of the year, when there were 802 requests, which impacted 1,516 accounts.

However, these numbers do not compare to the US or Turkey — the two countries where Microsoft received a majority of law enforcement demands. The report showed that the US led, with 5,652 requests, impacting a total of 12,979 accounts. Turkey trailed, with 5,330 requests, but it impacted half the accounts of the 6,071 users.

Microsoft said the company only received three legal orders for data associated with use of its commercial services by its enterprise customers where authorities sought information for about 15 accounts. Of those orders, information for all three cases was disclosed.

The report also showed that in the second half, Microsoft disclosed content in response to 2.3 percent of the total number of requests. The company said the disclosures were in response to a court order or warrant, and the vast majority of those disclosures were content that included the subject or body of an email, photos stored in SkyDrive, address book information, and calendars.

"These reports are part of our ongoing commitment to transparency on these issues. We believe that public availability of such data is important to our customers as well as to an increasingly broad community of advocates and stakeholders working to find the appropriate balance of policies that promote public safety and personal data privacy," John Frank, Microsoft deputy general counsel and vice president of legal and corporate affairs, wrote on the company's blog.