The London terror attack last week left four dead and many injured in an event lasting fewer than ninety seconds. Involving just a car and a knife, it highlighted how difficult it is to prevent casualties in such scenarios.
As a result, home secretary Amber Rudd called for a lessening of encryption in WhatsApp, which attacker Khalid Masood used before the attack. However, Facebook isn’t the only tech company that has come under fire over the events.
Media outlets like the Sun criticized Microsoft after chief legal officer Brad Smith told ITV “we will not help any government, including our own, hack or attack any customer anywhere.”
Publications quickly took the statement out of context, with claims that Microsoft did not comply with Rudd’s demands. MP James Berry claims “Companies like Microsoft are putting their own branding ahead of national security.”
Thirty Minute Response Time
However, Microsoft did indeed comply with the government order. Smith’s initial response always said the company turns over data when “legally compelled to”.
The London terror attack last Wednesday was no different, and Microsoft has released an amendment.
“Microsoft confirmed that it had received last week lawful orders seeking email information relating to the terrorist attack in London, and that it had promptly provided the information requested. This follows prompt action when Microsoft responded to 14 lawful requests following the November 2015 terrorist attack in Paris and the Paris attack on Charlie Hebdo in January 2015,” said a spokesperson.
“Our team responded in under 30 minutes last week to verify that the legal order was valid and provided law enforcement the information that was sought,” Smith added. “Our global team is on call 24/7 and responds when it receives a proper and lawful order. This of course is different from helping a government outside the rule of law to turn over private information or hack or attack a customer, which we’ve said clearly we will not do. We’re committed both to protecting public safety and safeguarding personal privacy, and we believe that proper legal process is the key to striking this balance.”
Whatever your thoughts on privacy, it’s hard to argue with the company’s logic. It simply follows the law and doesn’t disclose customers information unless it has to. However, with pressure in the U.K. to remove investigation barriers, it’s hard to say how long that stance will fly.