Microsoft backs down over surveillance guide
By John E Dunn | Techworld | Published: 10:30, 26 February 2010
Microsoft has given up its battle with anti-secrecy website Cryptome.org, after the controversy over publication of Redmond's internal surveillance guide for law enforcement agencies threatened to turn into a publicity own-goal.
The company has clearly had second thoughts after initially persuading hosting provider Network Solutions to down the entire Cryptome site on 24 February in response to its publication of the Microsoft internal Global Criminal Compliance Handbook.
In an email exchange published by the now returned Cryptome website, Microsoft's lawyers reassert the company's copyright on the 22-page guide, but concede that the company's initial action to stop publication had been heavyhanded.
"While Microsoft has a good faith belief that the distribution of the file that was made available at that address infringes Microsoft's copyrights, it was not Microsoft's intention that the takedown request result in the disablement of web access to the entire cryptome.org website on which the file was made available," wrote Microsoft counsel Evan Cox.
The contentious guide is available for download once again from Cryptome, along with similar internal guides from companies such as AOL, Skype, and Yahoo.
In relenting, Microsoft has clearly calculated that the negative publicity from downing a prominent anti-secrecy website was not worth it to make a legal point regarding the publication of a document that has spread to many other downloads sites anyway. It has bowed to the inevitable.
In the days since its publication, most experts agree that the guide contains few facts regarding Microsoft's collection of data from its customers that couldn't have been divined from the technical nature of those services anyway.
Microsoft records IP addresses, some exchanges between individuals, and keeps records for up to 90 days. In regard to paid services, it relates names, addresses and IP addresses to credit card details exactly as one would assume. The guide has now been read by many more people than it would have had Microsoft not started its action against the Cryptome.org website.