Another twist has been unveiled in the ongoing war against privacy, after Microsoft have become the latest corporation to be exposed in the NSA hacking scandal.

Top secret documents obtained by the Guardian has shown how the tech giant has worked closely with the US intelligence services to gain details about users.

The files were provided by Edward Snowden and helped to shed new light on the Prism program.

According to the Guardian report, the documents show that:

  • Microsoft helped the NSA to circumvent its encryption to address concerns that the agency would be unable to intercept web chats on the new portal

  • The company worked with the FBI this year to allow the NSA easier access via Prism to its cloud storage service SkyDrive, which now has more than 250 million users worldwide

  • The company allowed the NSA access to hotmail and Outlook emails

  • After Microsoft bought Skype, the NSA were able to collect triple the amount of data garnered through Skype calls through its Prism program.

  • Data collected through Prism is routinely shared with other security organisations such as the CIA and FBI.

Last month, it was revealed that the NSA boasted about having “direct access” through the Prism program to the information held by many major internet companies, including Microsoft, Skype, Apple, Google, Facebook and Yahoo.

The NSA along with US security agencies, are able to gain access to all these details without a court order if there is a belief that the person in question is not a US citizen.

Despite the marketing claims made by companies such as Microsoft and Skype that they are safeguarding the privacy of their users, the secret documents reveal the exact opposite.

The documents show that in December 2012 the NSA became concerned they were unable to extract enough data from the encrypted files on chats. Two months later, Microsoft officially launched the new portal which allowed access to this information.

Microsoft’s collaboration with the NSA reaches as far back as 2010, when the process of integrating Skype with the Prism program had begun.

ACLU technology expert Chris Soghoian told the Guardian that the revelations would come as a shock to many Skype users, who previously thought that Skype was a safer bet than other forms of online communication.

He said: “In the past, Skype made affirmative promises to users about their inability to perform wiretaps.

“It’s hard to square Microsoft’s secret collaboration with the NSA with its high-profile efforts to compete on privacy with Google.”

These new revelations serve as yet another reminder that only one person can truly safeguard the information shared online – and that is the user themselves.

It also shows that when using applications such as Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, or Skype among others, it is very unwise to assume that the information is private or safe.

Therefore one should be very wary about what information one inputs onto the computer or over the internet, especially when using the big-name companies.

The war on privacy is not just a physical or a mental one – it is a cyber one, and people everywhere should bear this in mind when choosing which software programs to use and the kind of access they allow organisations to have to their data.

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