According to the Washington Post, sources familiar with the matter have said Microsoft is considering encrypting its Internet traffic in light of increasing evidence that the NSA may have intercepted Internet traffic at several major tech companies.
Two previously unreleased slides from Edward Snowden’s leak of classified NSA documents, show collection of online address books from Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft-owned Hotmail and Windows Live Messenger. Another e-mail shows Microsoft’s now-defunct account and online payment service Passport may have been a part of another NSA spying program called “MUSCULAR”, that intercepted information traveling between data centers at Yahoo and Google.
Though these documents do not necessarily prove that spying took place, Microsoft and other tech companies have been taking even the possibility of this occurring very seriously.
"These allegations are very disturbing," says Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith to USA Today. "If they are true these actions amount to hacking and seizure of private data and in our view are a breach of the protection guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution."
Microsoft, as well as Yahoo, Google, Facebook, and Apple have filed Amicus briefs and letters to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) in support of a larger group of cases advocating for more transparency. Google has already responded to potential data interceptions by strengthening its data encryption.
The NSA responded to the Washington Post’s questions on Microsoft with a statement:
“NSA’s focus is on targeting the communications of valid foreign intelligence targets, not on collecting and exploiting a class of communications or services that would sweep up communications that are not of bona fide foreign intelligence interest to the U.S. government.”
Not only does the NSA spying have Microsoft and other tech companies taking extra preventative measures, it also could lose them money. Forrester Research, Inc., a research group based in Cambridge, Mass., predicts distrust of US tech companies’ security following the revelations could result in $180 billion in losses by 2016, according to Bloomberg News.
Much of this could come from international customers, such as Brazil and Germany, who may decide to move their data and/or business home where they believe it will be safer than when housed in the United States.