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Microsoft reports rise in law enforcement demands for data

The software giant said about one-third of all law enforcement requests were submitted by the US and UK governments alone.

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Microsoft's campus in Redmond, Wash. (Image: Stephen Brashear/file photo via Microsoft)

Microsoft has released its latest transparency figures for the first half of the year, ending June.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant saw a rise in total law enforcement requests compared to the second-half of last year -- an increase of about 2 percent -- totaling 35,228 requests affecting 62,750 users or accounts.

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Breaking that figure down, that's an increase of 4,226 law enforcement requests, affecting 9,753 more accounts than in the first-half of 2015.

The company complied in part with more than three-quarters of requests, such as handing over metadata or subscriber information. Content, such as a user's files, photos, or documents, were handed over to law enforcement in 3 percent of cases.

Law enforcement also submitted six requests for 41 accounts associated with enterprise customers. Microsoft said half of those cases it rejected or redirected the request to the customer, but the company was compelled to provide "responsive information" in two cases. One case is still pending.

The US was the most data hungry with 5,940 requests, in which content was turned over in 11 percent of cases. The second largest requester of data was the UK with 5,680 requests, but figures show no content was handed over to law enforcement.

More than three-quarters of all requests came from the US, UK, France, Germany, and Turkey, said John Frank, Microsoft's deputy general counsel, in a blog post.

On cases relating to national security, Microsoft and other companies are subject to heavy reporting restrictions. In the wake of the PRISM surveillance program leaks, the Justice Department allowed companies to disclose the number of orders they receive from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court, so long as they are subject to a six-month delay and are reported in wide numerical bands.

Microsoft said that during the second half of last year -- the most recent figure released Wednesday -- there had been "little change" in the number. There were between zero and 999 orders seeking content data, affecting between 18,000 and 18,999 accounts.

The report said the figures may be overstated because a single user may own multiple accounts.

The FBI also submitted between zero and 999 so-called National Security Orders, which don't demand content but compel the company to disclose certain information about a person without informing that individual.

The figures are now part of the company's Transparency Hub, which aims to centralize the global governmental requests for data, European "right to be forgotten" requests, and other content removal requests.