Microsoft received over 72,000 law enforcement info requests in 2013

Microsoft saw the number of requests from law enforcement agencies around the world asking for customer account information go down for all of 2013 compared to 2012. While the company got 75,378 such requests in 2012, 2013 saw a total of 72,279 inquires.

These numbers come from Microsoft's latest Law Enforcement Requests Report. The company first started offering this information a year ago when it revealed data for all of 2012. Since then it has issued updates every six months. For the first half of 2013, it recorded 37,196 requests from law enforcement agencies that could have impacted as many as 66,539 customer accounts. This week's update covers the second half of 2013, which Microsoft said 35,083 requests impacting 58,676 accounts were received.

Microsoft said 17.85 percent of those requests ended up with no data discovered that were related to the inquiries, while 3.4 percent were outright rejected by the company. 76 percent of the requests resulted in the reveal of what Microsoft calls "non-content data" to law enforcement agencies. This information includes a person's name, email address, state, country, zip code, and IP address.

Only 2.32 percent of the requests for Microsoft customer account info in the last six months of 2013 resulted in content data being disclosed to the appropriate authorities. Examples of that kind of content include words in an email or photo and files stored in Microsoft's OneDrive service. Microsoft says that it requires a court order before it would disclose that kind of information.

In January, Microsoft revealed that a series of cyber attacks that the company suffered in early 2014 resulted in "documents associated with law enforcement inquiries" being taken from their networks. Microsoft has not offered an update on their investigation since that time.

Source: Microsoft | Image via Microsoft

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The Fourth Amendment (Amendment IV) to the United States Constitution is the part of the Bill of Rights that prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause. It was adopted in response to the abuse of the writ of assistance, a type of general search warrant issued by the British government and a major source of tension in pre-Revolutionary America. The Fourth Amendment was introduced in Congress in 1789 by James Madison, along with the other amendments in the Bill of Rights, in response to Anti-Federalist objections to the new Constitution. Congress submitted the amendment to the states on September 28, 1789. By December 15, 1791, the necessary three-quarters of the states had ratified it. On March 1, 1792, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson announced the adoption of the amendment.
Because the Bill of Rights did not initially apply to the states, and federal criminal investigations were less common in the first century of the nation's history, there is little significant case law for the Fourth Amendment before the 20th century. The amendment was held to apply to the states in Mapp v. Ohio (1961).
Under the Fourth Amendment, search and seizure (including arrest) should be limited in scope according to specific information supplied to the issuing court, usually by a law enforcement officer who has sworn by it. Fourth Amendment case law deals with three central questions: what government activities constitute "search" and "seizure"; what constitutes probable cause for these actions; and how violations of Fourth Amendment rights should be addressed. Early court decisions limited the amendment's scope to a law enforcement officer's physical intrusion onto private property, but with Katz v. United States (1967), the Supreme Court held that its protections, such as the warrant requirement, extend to the privacy of individuals as well as physical locations. Law enforcement officers need a warrant for most search and seizure activities, but the Court has defined a series of exceptions for consent searches, motor vehicle searches, evidence in plain view, exigent circumstances, border searches, and other situations.
The exclusionary rule is one way the amendment is enforced. Established in Weeks v. United States (1914), this rule holds that evidence obtained through a Fourth Amendment violation is generally inadmissible at criminal trials. Evidence discovered as a later result of an illegal search may also be inadmissible as "fruit of the poisonous tree," unless it inevitably would have been discovered by legal means.

It's in the report itself:

* We require a valid subpoena or legal equivalent before we consider releasing a customer's non-content data to law enforcement;
* We require a court order or warrant before we consider releasing a customer's content data;
* In each instance, we carefully examine the requests we receive for a customer's information to make sure they are in accord with the laws, rules and procedures that apply.

*Shrug* Maybe it wasn't a proper warrant or they took issue with the requests. Also quoting:

It is important to remember that receipt of an order does not mean the information that was sought was ultimately disclosed. Microsoft has successfully challenged requests in court, and we will continue to contest orders that we believe lack legal validity.