In the post-Snowden age, transparency reports are all the rage. After the privacy debate that followed the NSA surveillance revelations technology companies fell over themselves to publish everything they could about government data requests. Microsoft has already released transparency reports, but has now unveiled a new Transparency Hub.
This is designed to be a central resource through which a variety of reports can be accessed, including the Law Enforcement Requests Report and U.S. National Security Orders Report. Data for the first six months of 2015 is now available, and there is a new section dedicated to Right To Be Forgotten-style requests for data removal.
The Microsoft Transparency Hub is also home to details about workforce demographics and other company statistics, but the government data requests section is the one that most people will be interested in. There has been a slight increase in the number of requests compared to the second half of 2014, up from 31,002 to 35,228. Microsoft says that just 3 per cent of requests from law enforcement agencies resulted in the disclosure of customer content.
The Content Removal Requests Report is where we find out about the requests Microsoft has received asking for content to be removed. Details are provided in three areas:
- Requests from governments such as claims of violations of local laws or our terms of service;
- Requests from European residents for links to online content about them to be removed from Bing under the European Court of Justice’s 2014 "Right to Be Forgotten" ruling; and,
- Requests from copyright owners to Bing claiming infringement of protected works.
By far the greatest number of requests (165) came from China, and it is somewhat surprising to learn that Microsoft received a mere 186 requests in total in the first six months of 2015. Action was taken in 89 per cent of cases.
Microsoft's Deputy General Counsel & Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs, John Frank said: "This inaugural release of our Content Removal Requests Report is very much a V1, much like the inaugural releases of our Law Enforcement Requests Report and U.S. National Security Orders Report were. Like those two reports, we expect to improve upon the information we’re providing today, adding additional detail and additional categories of information in the future.
"We also expect that our new Microsoft Transparency Hub will continue to evolve as we gather here reports on a variety of other topics and seek to provide our customers with a better understanding of how Microsoft works to improve transparency about these types of requests and about our own activities around the world."