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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

Topic: government

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February 12, 2015 at 4:48 PM

Senators move to limit government’s ability to grab data abroad

Congress will have another crack at a data privacy topic close to Microsoft’s heart.

A trio of Senators on Thursday introduced a bill that would limit the scope of U.S. law enforcement to reach data stored abroad.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch and Dean Heller, and Democratic Sen. Chris Coons, would amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to prevent prosecutors from grabbing data stored abroad unless the owner of the data was a U.S. person or company. The measure would also give courts the ability to void or modify warrants seeking foreign-stored data from service providers if the court finds that turning that data over would violate the laws of a foreign country.

Hatch introduced the same bill — dubbed the LEADS Act — last year, but it didn’t go anywhere before Congress adjourned. LEADS stands, clumsily, for “Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad.”

Microsoft, caught between government demands and its effort to reassure customers that their data is free from improper government collection, has campaigned for such a policy tweak.

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December 9, 2014 at 11:42 AM

Microsoft officially unveils its government-ready cloud

Microsoft’s government-branded cloud is open for business.

The company has been welcoming governments that want to use Microsoft data centers for years, of course. But in releasing what it calls Azure government cloud, Microsoft aims to create an off-the-shelf type product that will convince more corners of the U.S. government that its data centers are safe and reliable.

What’s the difference between storing data for a government and regular folks? Microsoft offers to physically segregate sensitive government data storage and computer power from its other servers, and restrict access to the data to screened U.S. citizens. The company also offers support for a paper-trail roadmap that can keep government agencies in compliance with citizens’ privacy or other legal standards. (Microsoft put together a graphic of the alphabet soup of regulations the government cloud is designed to play nicely with.)

Microsoft in 2012 committed to stitching together the various arms of its cloud offerings in a way tailored for government agencies.

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December 8, 2014 at 11:20 AM

Microsoft brief details company’s rebuff of U.S. search of Irish servers

If U.S. prosecutors can reach into a Microsoft server in Ireland and retrieve emails stored there, what’s to stop a German court from ordering a German bank to open a safe deposit box in its New York City branch?

That premise kicks off Microsoft’s latest salvo in its legal fight against a U.S. warrant seeking a customer’s email stored in Ireland:

Officers of the local Stadtpolizei investigating a suspected leak to the press descend on Deutsche Bank headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany. They serve a warrant to seize a bundle of private letters that a New York Times reporter is storing in a safe deposit box at a Deutsche Bank USA branch in Manhattan. The bank complies by ordering the New York branch manager to open the reporter’s box with a master key, rummage through it, and fax the private letters to the Stadtpolizei.

Federal authorities ordered Microsoft in December 2013 to turn over a customer’s emails and other data prosecutors were seeking as part of a narcotics investigation.

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November 18, 2014 at 8:28 PM

Senate rejects Microsoft-backed NSA limits [Updated]

The Senate on Tuesday evening rejected a bill curbing the National Security Agency’s data-gathering powers, a blow to Microsoft and a coalition of technology giants that had asked Congress to restrict the spy agency’s programs.

Microsoft, along with Apple, Google and a host of technology companies, posted an open letter this weekend urging the Senate to vote to limit the NSA’s ability to gather bulk Internet and phone data. But in a vote largely along party lines — with Democrats voting yes, and Republicans, weighing in shortly after their victory in this month’s elections, opposed — the measure was rejected.

U.S. technology firms have been major players in the public debate following Edward Snowden’s leaks last year showing that the U.S. government intelligence apparatus was gathering more data than previously disclosed. The storm has damaged the business interests of companies like Microsoft, as private-sector customers and governments foreign and domestic worried about the security of their data.

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November 17, 2014 at 10:33 AM

Microsoft, tech giants urge Senate to curb government data collection

Corrected version Microsoft and a roster of tech heavy-hitters have asked the U.S. Senate to pass a bill curbing the National Security Agency’s powers to collect phone records, emails and other data in bulk. The bill, which could come up for a vote in the Senate as early as this week, also would allow companies like Microsoft to disclose the rough…

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November 11, 2014 at 3:33 PM

Seattle police body camera maker plugs into Microsoft’s cloud

A Seattle company is rolling out the latest application for Microsoft’s expanding cloud: storing the footage taken by police cameras.

Police departments have been taking video — think dashboard cams — for decades. But with the increasing push to record more of officers’ interactions with citizens, the volume of data is growing fast.

Vievu’s answer? Upload the footage to Microsoft’s servers.

Vievu said Tuesday that it has built software on Microsoft’s Azure platform that offers law enforcement agencies the ability to send footage from the company’s line of body and car-mounted cameras to Microsoft’s data centers.

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