Following steps taken by Twitter, Yahoo, Facebook and Google, technology giant Microsoft has also initiated measures to fortify encryption of customer data on its networks and services in a move aimed at protecting its user's data from "unauthorised government access". The US-based firm, however said it does not have any direct evidence of customer data being breached illegally by the government. "For many years, we've used encryption in our products and services to protect our customers from online criminals and hackers. "While, we have no direct evidence that customer data has been breached by unauthorised government access, we don't want to take any chances and are addressing this issue head on," Microsoft General Counsel and Executive VP (Legal & Corporate Affairs) Brad Smith said in a statement yesterday. Microsoft said many of its customers have "serious concerns" about "government surveillance of the Internet." "We share their concerns.
That's why we are taking steps to ensure governments use legal process rather than technological brute force to access customer data," the software major added. Microsoft said it is alarmed by the recent allegations in the press of a broader and concerted effort by some governments to circumvent online security measures to collect private customer data. In particular, recent stories have reported allegations of governmental interception and collection - without search warrants or legal subpoenas - of customer data as it travels between customers and servers or between company data centres in the industry, it added. "Indeed, government snooping potentially now constitutes an advanced persistent threat, alongside sophisticated malware and cyber attacks," Microsoft said, adding, such allegations, if true, threaten to undermine confidence in security and privacy of online communications. "In light of these allegations, we've decided to take immediate and coordinated action in three areas. We are expanding encryption across our services, reinforcing legal protections for our customers' data and enhancing transparency of our software code, making it easier for customers to reassure themselves that our products do not contain back doors," the firm said. Last month, Twitter and Yahoo! announced steps to toughened the encryption of traffic to thwart online snooping. Google and Facebook have already announced similar measures. US Internet titans whose businesses are based on maintaining the trust of users have been keen to strengthen privacy protection in the wake of disclosures of broad scale cyber spying by the National Security Agency. Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden had revealed of US surveillance on a global scale, straining Washington's ties with key allies and putting pressure on Internet firms to show people that their online privacy is being guarded.