One of Microsoft’s top security executives said the company has never been asked by the United States government to build a backdoor into any of its products, and if the company was asked, it would fight the order in the courts.
Since the Edward Snowden revelations began last summer, there have been many stories insinuating that large technology vendors such as Microsoft, Google and others may have built backdoors into some of their products in order to enable intelligence agencies or law enforcement to exploit them. Specifically, some of the documents leaked by Snowden last year illustrated close cooperation between Microsoft and the U.S. government on gaining access to some customers’ communications.
Microsoft officials have said that they only provide the cooperation that is required by law or court orders and nothing more. On Thursday, Scott Charney, corporate vice president of Trustworthy Computing at Microsoft, said in a panel discussion at The Aspen Institute that the company would be very hostile to any suggestion of inserting a backdoor into one of its products. Asked specifically about the a backdoor in Skype, which Microsoft bought in 2011, Charney refuted any notion that the government had asked for backdoor access to the product.
“One, they have never done that, and two, we would fight it tooth and nail in the courts,” Charney said. “Under the wiretapping statutes and FISA you can be compelled to provide technical assistance. If they said, put in a backdoor or something like that, we would fight it all the way to the Supreme Court.”
Aside from the potential legal ramifications of such a move, Charney said that granting law enforcement or an intelligence agency secret access to customer data without a warrant or court order would be financial suicide for Microsoft.
“If the government did that, and I really don’t think they would, it would be at the complete expense of American competitiveness,” he said. “Because if we put in a backdoor for the U.S. government, we couldn’t sell anywhere in the world, not even in America.”