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Microsoft reports 37,000 government data requests in first half of 2013

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Microsoft said Friday it received more than 37,000 government requests for information in the first half of 2013 — excluding any national security requests.

In only its second report on the matter, the US tech giant’s figures appeared to be on pace with 2012, when it got 75,378 requests.

“The report details the number of requests for data we received from law enforcement agencies around the world, and how Microsoft responds to those requests. It covers requests for data relating to all of Microsoft?s online and cloud services, including Skype,” the company said on its website.

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“Unfortunately, we are not currently permitted to report detailed information about the type and volume of any national security orders… that we may receive so any national security orders we may receive are not included in this report.”

The report shows Microsoft received 37,196 requests from law enforcement agencies, potentially impacting 66,539 accounts in the first six months of 2013.

The company said it provided “non-content data” — usually names or basic subscriber information — in 77 percent of requests, and nothing in some 21 percent.

In 2.19 percent of the cases, the company turned over “customer content,” with more than 90 percent of these in the United States.

The report comes with US tech companies under pressure following revelations of a secret government program which scoops up vast amounts of data from Internet firms.

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Tech firms including Microsoft. Google and Facebook have been seeking to release more information on government data requests, in the belief that this would reassure customers.

In June, Microsoft said it received between 6,000 and 7,000 criminal and national security warrants, subpoenas and orders affecting between 31,000 and 32,000 consumer accounts from US government entities.

It said it was permitted to publish data on national security orders “only if aggregated with law enforcement requests from all other US local, state and federal law enforcement agencies” and reported in a range, without specific numbers.

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In Friday’s report, Microsoft said it received 7,014 requests from US law enforcement along with 978 for its Skype messaging division.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]


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Melania Trump statue torched near her Slovenian hometown: report

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On Wednesday, The Daily Beast reported that a wooden statue of First Lady Melania Trump carved from a tree outside her hometown in Slovenia last year has been burned to the ground.

"The artist who had commissioned the sculpture, Brad Downey, had the statue removed on July 5," reported Madeline Charbonneau. "Downey, who is American but works out of Berlin, had hoped his statue of the first lady would create dialogue about American politics, given that Melania Trump is an immigrant married to a president who seeks to stem immigration. Though the investigation is still pending, Downey said he hopes to interview the perpetrators for an upcoming exhibition."

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FBI investigating Chinese businessman who bankrolled media company linked to Steve Bannon

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A Wall Street Journal expose revealed that a Chinese businessman is under investigation by the FBI after he used funds to bankroll a media company with ties to a former aide to President Donald Trump, Steve Bannon.

"Federal Bureau of Investigation national security agents in recent months have asked people who know both men for information on Mr. Guo’s activities, including the source of funds of a media company linked to him that hired Mr. Bannon in 2018 as a consultant, the people said," according to the Journal. "As recently as last week, the FBI met with one person familiar with the companies tied to Mr. Guo, the people said. The probe has been underway for more than six months, and prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s offices in Manhattan and Brooklyn have been involved.

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Mike Pompeo asks Egypt to stop harassing US citizens

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday welcomed Egypt's release of a US citizen but urged the ally to stop harassment of others.

Mohamed Amashah, 24, was freed Monday, nearly 16 months after he was arrested in Cairo's Tahrir Square for holding up a sign seeking the release of prisoners, according to human rights campaigners.

A dual US-Egyptian citizen who lives in New Jersey, he had gone on a hunger strike this year to protest his conditions.

"We thank Egypt for securing his release and his repatriation," Pompeo told a news conference.

"But at the same time, we urge Egyptian officials to stop unwarranted harassment of US citizens and their families who remain there," he said.

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