Microsoft has seen a lot of negative feedback from its Xbox One reveal, especially after the NSA article by The Guardian. Recently, Microsoft has petitioned the U.S. government to be able to share more details and include higher transparency of the requests made by the National Security Agency.
It is easy to see why Microsoft would be so keen to share the details of requests from the NSA after it had to back-pedal its DRM and ‘always on’ policy in response to strong negative consumer feedback. In particular, Microsoft wishes to reveal the number of national security requests they receive. This almost implies a rather low number, since publishing reports of large numbers of requests would most likely only make consumers more wary, not less.
Whatever this number may be, Microsoft has openly argued with The Guardian’s portrayal of its relationship with the NSA. According to executive Vice President Brad Smith,
“We [Microsoft] do not provide any government with direct access to emails or instant messages.”
He adds that Microsoft did talk with the NSA, but
“…in none of these discussions did Microsoft provide or agree to provide any government with direct access to user content or the ability to break our encryption.”
This stance on policy transparency is a smart move for Microsoft, but may only provide so much comfort to the hearts of gamers when Kinect is still a large component of the next-gen console.
Currently, Microsoft is waiting to receive a response from the petition.They also aren’t the only companies to ask for more public openness; Google and others have also begun to do the same. In fact, Google’s blog post after the PRISM incident was revealed seems to be following the very same tune as Microsoft.
While being open gives Microsoft a more ‘good guy’ edge, and their supposedly bare minimum compliance with the NSA is encouraging, without knowing more details it doesn’t shed light on exactly the extent their relationship goes. A word is only as good as the facts that back it up, after all. As I have mentioned in a previous article, even if Microsoft doesn’t voluntarily give access to the NSA, the abilities their next-gen console has while sitting right in the middle of your family’s living room allows enough room for serious doubt and concern.