By Ryan Singel
Microsoft has managed to do what a roomful of secretive, three-letter government agencies have wanted to do for years: get the whistleblowing, government-document sharing site Cryptome shut down.
Microsoft dropped a DMCA notice alleging copyright infringement on Cryptome’s proprietor John Young on Tuesday after he posted a Microsoft surveillance compliance document that the company gives to law enforcement agents seeking information on Microsoft users. Young filed a counterclaim on Wednesday — arguing he had a fair use to publishing the document, a full day before the Thursday deadline set by his hosting provider, Network Solutions.
Regardless, Cryptome was shut down by Network Solutions and its domain name locked on Wednesday — shuttering a site that thumbed its nose at the government since 1996 — posting thousands of documents that the feds would prefer never saw the light of day.
Microsoft did not return a call for comment by press time.
The 22-page document (.pdf) contains no trade secrets, but will tell Microsoft users things they didn’t know.
For instance, Xbox Live records every IP address you ever use to login and stores them for perpetuity. While that’s going to be creepy for some, there’s an upside if your house gets robbed, according to the document: “If your investigation involves a stolen Xbox console, if the console serial number or Xbox LIVE user gamertag is provided and the console has been connected to the Internet, IP connection records may be available.”
Other things you might not know and which Microsoft (sometimes oddly) doesn’t want you to know?
Microsoft retains only the last 10 login records for Windows Live ID. As for your instant messages, it tells police that it keeps no record of what anyone says over Microsoft Messenger – though it will turn over who is on your buddy list.
And if you like to use Microsoft’s social networking products — like its old-school Group mailing list or its Facebook-like Spaces product, be aware that it’s very social when it comes to law enforcement or court subpoenas.
As Microsoft tells potential subpoenaees, “when you are looking for information on a specific incident like a photo posting or message posting, please request all group content and logs. We cannot retrieve single incident data.” The same holds for Spaces — if you are interested in a single picture, just request the entire thing. Call it Subpoena 2.0.
The compliance handbook is just the latest in a series of leaks of similar documents from other companies. Yahoo, like Microsoft, reacted as if its secret sauce had somehow been spilled by letting curious users know the hows and whys of how the companies deal with lawful surveillance requests. Google, for all its crusading for internet freedom, refuses to say how often law enforcement comes searching for user data.
But hypocrisy is the name of the game for giant internet companies like Yahoo, Microsoft and Google that want us to entrust large portions of our lives to Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Buzz, Xbox, Hotmail, Messenger, Google Groups. When it comes to the most basic information about how, why and how often our data is subpoenaed and collected without our knowledge, these online innovators resort to lawyers, abusive legal process and double-talk.