Microsoft reports record low for police data requests

In 2017, the number of customer-data requests from law enforcement and other government agencies worldwide was lower than it's been in five years.

Alfred Ng Senior Reporter / CNET News
Alfred Ng was a senior reporter for CNET News. He was raised in Brooklyn and previously worked on the New York Daily News's social media and breaking news teams.
Alfred Ng
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The drop in requests doesn't hold for other tech giants.


Microsoft released its biannual transparency report Thursday, revealing that 2017 set a record low when it comes to requests for customer data from governments worldwide.

Tech giants like Microsoft, Apple and Google often have to deal with such requests, whether they're related to law enforcement concerns or national security. These companies usually release transparency reports twice a year, documenting how many requests came from January to June, and from July to December.

Digital evidence is becoming more crucial to investigations, as law enforcement officers look for clues from text messages and cell phone locations. The requests are at odds with tech companies that're looking to protect user privacy, but the businesses often comply with legal orders.

Though requests to Google, Apple and Facebook have increased over the years, Microsoft's numbers are going against the trend, according to its latest report. This comes as Google and Apple both reported a record number of requests from the first half of 2017 alone.

Microsoft said it received 22,939 legal requests for customer information in the second half of 2017, a slight decrease from the 25,367 requests during the first half. That adds up to 48,306 requests during all of 2017 -- the lowest number in the last five years.

Here's how the numbers break down through the years:

  • 2017: 48,306
  • 2016: 61,409
  • 2015: 74,311
  • 2014: 65,496
  • 2013: 72,279

To put Microsoft's 2017 numbers in perspective, Google received 48,941 requests for data from governments around the world in just the first half of 2017. Apple received about 30,814 demands during that same time period.

The requests in the second half of 2017 were for about 44,831 accounts. Microsoft complied with about 83 percent of those, disclosing information on 37,209 accounts.

The majority of those requests came from the US, the UK, France and Germany, Microsoft's director of corporate responsibility, Steve Lippman, said in a blog post.

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