Microsoft apologizes for error in number of US foreign intelligence surveillance requests

Two weeks ago, Microsoft published its latest biannual transparency report, covering the period from July to December 2016. Among the data that it provided was the number of US surveillance orders received under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA); the most recent data available for that specific metric was for the previous six-month period from January to June 2016, as the company made clear in its report.

The report stated that Microsoft had received between 1,000 and 1,499 FISA surveillance orders during that period, which represented a significant increase compared with the two six-month periods prior to that, during which it had received between 0 and 499 requests. It's worth pointing out that this data is always presented in broad strokes, without providing the precise numbers of requests during any period.

However, Microsoft has since issued a correction to its report, stating that the true figure for FISA requests from January to June 2016 was in the 0-499 range, and not 1,000-1,499 as it had previously stated. An editor's note, on the original blog post summarizing its report, was added on April 25, stating:

Our latest U.S. National Security Orders Report and accompanying blog post contained an error, reporting that from Jan. 1 – June 30, 2016 Microsoft received 1,000 – 1,499 FISA orders seeking disclosure of customer content. The correct range is 0 – 499 FISA orders seeking disclosure of customer content. All the other data disclosed in the National Security Orders Report was correct.

Microsoft corrected the mistake as soon as we realized it was made to ensure the accuracy of our reporting. We've put additional safeguards in place to ensure the numbers we report are correct. We apologize for the error."

That correction indicates that the broad range of FISA requests that Microsoft received was roughly similar in number to the preceding six-month periods.

A Microsoft spokesperson told Reuters that the incorrect information was originally published as a result of "human error".

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