Latest Microsoft Transparency Report Details Content Removal Requests

Microsoft launched a new transparency website this week that bundles together reports detailing requests for data the company has received.

Microsoft launched a new transparency website this week that bundles reports detailing requests for data the company has received, including those from law enforcement, the government, and elsewhere.

The page, which Microsoft is calling its Transparency Hub, is somewhat similar to what Apple did last month when it looped all of its transparency reports together on one page.

While Microsoft has issued transparency reports regarding requests from law enforcement and the U.S. government in the past, this is the first time it’s broken down requests the company has received from other parties to outright remove content on sites such as its search engine Bing.

Like the other two reports, the “Content Removal Requests Report” pertains to requests from the first six months of the calendar year. The main difference is this report mostly culls information on requests from other governments, requests from European residents citing a special European Court of Justice ruling, and requests from copyright owners claiming their work was infringed.

According to the report, China far and away had the most requests for content to be removed, with 165 requests filed compared to 11 from the United States, and 10 from Austria, Germany, Russia, and the U.K. combined. The report doesn’t specify exactly what the content was or where it was located, but claims the numbers are from Microsoft entities like Bing, OneDrive, and MSN.

There were many more requests to remove copyrighted information, just north of one million, according to Microsoft. In this case, it was usually URLs that were being shown in Bing searches that contained copyrighted material. Microsoft claims it complied with 92 percent of requests. Since this is an inaugural report however, there are no statistics from last year to compare the numbers to.

The company received 3,546 requests from European residents to remove results for queries in Bing that included their name. A rule passed last year called the ‘Right To Be Forgotten’ rule allows users to ask their name be removed if the results were inadequate, inaccurate or no longer relevant. Microsoft complied with 50 percent of those requests.

As far as law enforcement requests, Microsoft received 35,228, a slight uptick from the second half of 2014 when it received 31,002. The report claims only three percent of requests it received led to the disclosure of content customers created, shared or stored on its services.  The company rejected 12 percent of requests, up from 7.5 percent in the second half of last year.

The company, as it’s done for the past several years, also claims it received somewhere between zero and 999 National Security Letters. The government only permits companies to disclose requests in bands of 1000, which explains the vague number.

The company got permission to start sharing information pertaining to legal demands they receive in early 2014 but has been posting the reports pertaining to law enforcement twice a year since 2013, largely in response to a growing demand for transparency from big data companies in the post-Snowden world.

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