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Microsoft Allowed the NSA SkyDrive Access

The issue of security has always been a concern when it comes to cloud storage. This came to a head recently when it was revealed that the National Security Agency are running a program called PRISM. Whistle blower Edward Snowden outed the NSA’s program, showing that the government were invading user’s privacy and accessing their data.

Further reports came out that Microsoft had worked closely with the American intelligence services. The tech giant apparently helped the NSA evade file encryption. Among the information, the documents showed that Microsoft allowed the NSA to view web chats on Outlook.com and view email on Hotmail. The documents go on to show that the NSA had tripled the amount of Skype video calls that they were collecting, nine months after Microsoft bought out Skype.

Not only that, but Microsoft apparently allowed the NSA easy access to their cloud storage service SkyDrive. The platform, which has 250 million worldwide users, allows uploading of personal files such as documents, photos and videos to be stored in the cloud and accessed at any time and from anywhere.

Microsoft gave a statement to British newspaper the Guardian, saying that they were legally forced to hand over data in compliance with NSA requests. However, they went on to deny that they would ever allow the NSA full access to user data without permission.

"We have clear principles which guide the response across our entire company to government demands for customer information for both law enforcement and national security issues," Microsoft said, continuing "we only ever comply with orders about specific accounts or identifiers."

You may think that this doesn’t really affect you. Perhaps the data you have stored on SkyDrive are just holiday photos or music albums. But it’s the principle that counts; why should the government be allowed to access your data without your permission? Whether or not it has obvious, direct consequences for you shouldn’t be an issue. Your data is yours and yours alone. No one else should have access to it without your approval. The fact that the government can view everything you’ve got stored on SkyDrive is a huge concern and raises the question of whether or not it should be used as cloud storage.

Of course, Microsoft wasn’t the only company involved with the PRISM program. Other tech companies were cited, amongst them Google. They too have their own cloud storage service called Drive. So how can you go about protecting your data?

The simple answer is through encryption. There are programs out there that will encrypt the data on your computer, so that when you upload it to the cloud the only person who can unlock the data is the one with the key: you. Cloud services that offer encryption aren’t necessarily better; if they hold the encryption key too, then they could just as easily hand that over to the government. You need to ensure that the only person who can unlock your data is you.

PRISM is an on-going issue and one that isn’t likely to go away soon. Governments say it’s a necessity for the war on terror, while a lot of users say it’s a breach of privacy. It seems the only thing users can do is sit up, take note and learn how to better protect their data.

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