Microsoft sees 25 percent rise in US law enforcement requests

Law enforcement requests numbers stayed the same at the global level, but saw a spike in the US.
Written by Catalin Cimpanu on

Statistics regarding user data requests Microsoft received from US law enforcement in H2 2017 and H1 2018

Image: Microsoft [edited by ZDNet]

Microsoft today published its biannual digital trust reports containing information on the number of law enforcement requests, national security orders, and content removal requests the company received in the first half of the year.

While globally, law enforcement requests for user data remained the same, Microsoft reported a 25 percent rise in legal requests received from US law enforcement for data on its users and enterprise customers.

Between January and June 2018, Microsoft says it received 4,948 legal requests from US law enforcement, a significant increase from the 3,984 legal requests it received in the previous six months, in the second half of 2017.

US law enforcement sought data on 14,015 accounts, compared to the 10,138 accounts it wanted to unmask in H2 2017.

Globally, the numbers remained the same, with 23,222 requests received in H1 2018, compared to 22,939 legal requests received in H2 2017, suggesting an escalation in data demand from US authorities.

Microsoft said the bulk of the 23,222 law enforcement demands it received in the first six months of the year came from only a handful of countries, such as France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The vast majority of requests inquired about "non-content" user data, which Microsoft says normally includes details such as an email address, name, state, country, ZIP code, IP address at the time of registration, IP connection history, Xbox gamertag, and credit card or other billing information.

Worldwide, 61.41 percent of law enforcement requests sought non-content user data, while only 4.60 percent of legal demands asked for user content, which includes far more sensitive information such as the content of an email, photographs or documents stored in OneDrive or other cloud services.

The reason why Microsoft received more requests for non-content data is that this type of data is easier to obtain, only requiring a subpoena or court order, while user content data requires a warrant or other legal equivalent.

Below are summaries from the different Microsoft biannual digital trust reports.

Requests for consumer data (full report here):

  • During the first half of 2018, Microsoft received a total number of 23,222 legal requests related to our consumer services from law enforcement agencies around the world, which is a slight increase from the previous six-month period of 22,939 legal requests.
  • A majority of the law enforcement demands Microsoft received during this period continued to come from a handful of countries, including France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.
  • Specific to United States law enforcement, Microsoft received 4,948 legal demands for data related to our consumer services. A small fraction of those demands, 133 court-issued warrants, sought content data stored in data centers outside of the United States. In only one case did Microsoft disclose enterprise content data stored outside the United States.

Requests for enterprise customer data (full report here):

  • In the first half of 2018, Microsoft received 50 requests from law enforcement (U.S. and international) for data associated with enterprise cloud customers (defined as customers who purchased more than 50 seats).
  • Of these requests, 34 were from U.S. law enforcement and 16 were from other countries.
  • In 32 cases, these requests were rejected, withdrawn or law enforcement was successfully redirected to the customer to obtain the information they are seeking.
  • In 18 cases, Microsoft was compelled to provide some information in response to the order: 10 cases required the disclosure of some customer content and in eight of the cases we were compelled to disclose non-content information only.
  • As noted above, in only one case was Microsoft compelled to disclose to U.S. law enforcement enterprise content data stored outside the United States.

National security orders (full report here):

  • The US National Security Orders Report contains data for H2 2017, not H1 2018.
  • Microsoft says it received 0 - 499 FISA orders seeking content disclosures affecting 12,500 - 12,999 accounts, which is unchanged from the previous period (H1 2017). FISA orders are used for electronic surveillance and collection of "foreign intelligence information" between "foreign powers" and "agents of foreign powers" suspected of espionage or terrorism.
  • Microsoft also received 0 - 499 National Security Letters in the latest reporting period, which is also unchanged from the previous period. A national security letter is similar to a FISA order, but used for US internal "national security" issues.

Content removal requests report (full report here):

  • Microsoft received 732 government-issued requests for content removal in the first half of 2018. "Government requests for content removal" are requests from governments to remove content based on various criteria, such as claims of violations of local laws, from Microsoft-owned online sites, such as Bing, OneDrive, Bing Ads, and MSN.
  • Microsoft honored 586 of the 732 government-issued requests, also closing 20 accounts in the process.
  • Microsoft also says it received 38,000,000 copyright removal requests for 171,738,000 URLs from Bing search results.
  • The OS maker says it removed roughly 171,000,000 URLs.
  • The report's data includes more than 95 percent of the copyright removal requests for Bing for the six-month reporting period.
  • Removal requests for Bing represent about 99% of all copyright removal requests Microsoft received.
  • Microsoft also received 2,780 "Right to be forgotten" requests for 9,132 URLs. Microsoft removed 5,043 URLs based on these requests.
  • Most "Right to be forgotten" requests came from France (896), the UK (541), and Germany (411).
  • Microsoft also says it received 362 requests for removal of nonconsensual pornography ("revenge porn"). The company acted and removed content on 242 of these requests.
  • Requests to remove "revenge port" were received for Bing, OneDrive, and Xbox Live.

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