SOFTWARE HOUSE Microsoft has responded to reports about PRISM surveillance, and tried to distance itself from suggestions that it is an open book to intelligence agencies.
The firm has released a statement following a report in the Guardian newspaper that accused it of handing over "blanket access" to its customers' data.
The Guardian report said that Microsoft threw open its doors to the US intelligence services, and it claimed that files provided by Edward Snowden have shown the extent of access Microsoft gave to the US National Security Agency (NSA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
The Guardian story accused Microsoft of giving the NSA blanket access to Outlook.com and Hotmail as well as Skydrive and Skype.
Material that the NSA extracted across these properties is "routinely shared" with the FBI and the CIA, according to the newspaper.
Microsoft is not the only company accused of collusion with US intelligence agencies, but it has been portrayed as being rather zealous in its involvement.
The Guardian reported that Microsoft boasted about its data delivery capabilities in Skype and its tripled PRISM data collection operations.
Microsoft disputed this, claiming that it is a principled company and takes its customers' privacy seriously.
"We have clear principles which guide the response across our entire company to government demands for customer information for both law enforcement and national security issues," it said.
"First, we take our commitments to our customers and to compliance with applicable law very seriously, so we provide customer data only in response to legal processes. Second, our compliance team examines all demands very closely, and we reject them if we believe they aren't valid. Third, we only ever comply with orders about specific accounts or identifiers, and we would not respond to the kind of blanket orders discussed in the press over the past few weeks, as the volumes documented in our most recent disclosure clearly illustrate."
In case we hadn't worked it out, Microsoft said that it definitely does not give any government direct access to its users' activities, explaining, "To be clear, Microsoft does not provide any government with blanket or direct access to SkyDrive, Outlook.com, Skype or any Microsoft product."
However, it added that there are times when product changes and legal obligations collide, adding that it will serve information based on law enforcement requests.
"Finally when we upgrade or update products legal obligations may in some circumstances require that we maintain the ability to provide information in response to a law enforcement or national security request," it added
"There are aspects of this debate that we wish we were able to discuss more freely. That's why we've argued for additional transparency that would help everyone understand and debate these important issues." µ