Tag Archives: internet privacy

Did Microsoft know about PRISM?

10 Jun

I’m normally one to leave conspiracy theories to the alien abductees, but this recent ad campaign for Internet Explorer had me a little suspicious:

Though clearly intended to reassure users about the security of their private data, this one seemed a strange step away from the usual ‘features and benefits’ advertising we’re used to seeing from Microsoft.

It jarred. Rather than reassure me, this new campaign drew unnecessary attention to the fact that Microsoft has access to my private data in the first place. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a fact we all live with. But let’s face it; none of us really want to think about it, let alone have it rubbed in our faces by giggling babies and girls studiously doing their homework.

With hindsight, the quote “The lines between public and private may never be perfect” takes on a potentially chilling new meaning. Could it possibly be code for, “We don’t give away your private data to most people, but sometimes we give it to the NSA”?

Though along with Google, Apple and Yahoo, Microsoft has denied all knowledge of the PRISM surveillance programme, I get the feeling they weren’t quite as outraged as they should’ve been, their statement reeking of the standard ‘yep, we spearheaded the WHOLE thing’ denial.

Tut, tut, Microsoft. Tut, tut.

In case you’re interested, here’s their statement (also found on their website):

“We provide customer data only when we receive a legally binding order or subpoena to do so, and never on a voluntary basis. In addition we only ever comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers. If the government has a broader voluntary national security program to gather customer data we don’t participate in it.”

Hmm. Very convincing.

Was this seemingly innocuous, though weirdly unsettling ad campaign a strategic move? From the perspective of the media, yes, whistleblowing is pretty instantaneous. But if watching the X-Files all these years has taught me anything… it’s that when somebody is about to blow the cover on a secret government initiative this far-reaching and controversial; somewhere, somebody important knows the leak is coming well enough in advance to tell the interested parties to cover their backs. And heck, if you’re an interested party, wouldn’t you want to cover you back anyway, I mean, just in case? I know I sure would. So here’s my first ever conspiracy theory… drum roll please:

Microsoft were using this ad campaign to cover their backs (wow, that feels good).

“Your privacy is our priority”. That’s clearly Microsoft’s party-line. Of course you must make up your own mind, but given their wobbly track record with privacy, the fact that they were rumoured to be the first corporation involved in the PRISM programme way back in 2007 and all my woolly circumstantial evidence and wild assumptions, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Microsoft were approached by the National Security Agency to set the blimmin’ thing up in the first place.

Be well and browse safe. Or better yet, just don’t browse. In fact, maybe even try the library? It’s been a while since I set foot in one, but I think they still have paper books in there… Anyway, you get what I’m saying. Look after your privacy.