Microsoft Transparency Report details takedown requests

Ever since Edward Snowden told us what we already secretly knew – namely that our governments are more than a little keen to know what we get up to online – tech companies have been keen to keep us in the loop via annual transparency reports.

Yesterday, for the first time, Microsoft joined in the fun by publishing its own list of statistics, detailing content removal requests both from private individuals and from governments.

While the total figures quoted are laughably small in comparison to similar disclosures made by Google, they do offer some interesting insight into who is looking to protect their privacy/has something to hide/wants to know what you have to hide.

For instance, in the first six months of 2015 the company received 759 link removal requests from Germans wishing to exercise their ‘right to be forgotten’ under the 2014 ECJ ruling that affords a person the right to have inaccurate or outdated information about them removed from search engine results pages.

Of the total of 3,546 such requests it received, the second highest total of 559 came from Brits who were looking to have content removed primarily from Bing, as well as OneDrive, MSN and Bing Ads.

Microsoft says it has complied with around half of the requests it received.

As far as government requests go, China asked for way more links to be removed than any other country – 165 – which is perhaps no surprise given the regime of censorship to be found in that region.

By way of comparison, the UK government only asked for two links to be dropped, as did Russia. The Americans asked Microsoft to remove 11 links while Germany made the same request in respect of just 5 links. That’s out of a total of 186 requests made during the period.

As you may imagine, the figures aren’t quite so small when it comes to law enforcement and government requests for information about users of Microsoft’s services.

In all, the company received some 35,228 requests for data in the first six months of 2015, a slight rise over the preceding 6 month period, it said.

Of those, only 3% led to the handing over of content or other data as Microsoft stressed it only ever responds to a valid court order or warrant, a point strengthened by the news that the company turned away twice as many requests (4,383) as last year (2,342) for failing to comply with legal requirements.

Overall, however, the company did hand over subscriber or transactional data in response to 67% of the government requests it received.

Interestingly, though, the report shows how 16% of data requests were unable to be fulfilled as no data was actually found.

Describing its new Transparency Report as version 1.0, Microsoft said:

We also expect that our new Microsoft Transparency Hub will continue to evolve as we gather here reports on a variety of other topics and seek to provide our customers with a better understanding of how Microsoft works to improve transparency about these types of requests and about our own activities around the world.

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