The Outlook.com team did a Reddit AMA today and, besides announcing long awaited IMAP support, it didn’t take long for questions about privacy and the NSA to come up. Surprisingly they responded with some real numbers revealing that an average of 214 requests a day were made in 2012.

Q: Will my emails be read by the NSA if I use Outlook.com or more importantly will you let them? edit: spelling

A: Hey, this is John from the Outlook.com team.
Outlook.com provides customer data only when we receive a legally binding order or subpoena to do so. We do not provide any government with direct access to emails or instant messages. Full stop. In addition, we only ever comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers, not on an aggregate basis. You can find more details on our blog entry from July 16

Q: How many requests have you gotten from law enforcements, and have you ever denied them from accessing clients’ emails?

A: John again – In 2012, Microsoft (including Skype) received a total of 75,378 law enforcement requests. Those requests covered a total of 137,424 accounts. ~18% of those requests resulted in no data being supplied. ~80% resulted in non-content (meta-data) information. ~2 % resulted in disclosure of actual customer content. You can get all the details, including actual numbers and our 2012 law enforcement requests report from this blog post[1]

You could always ask Marissa Mayer

They even took a shot at Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer for her recent comments about being afraid of being sent to jail by the NSA. These Outlook.com people really know the right things to say to warm my heart.

It seems that what many people are concerned about, a government backdoor giving them access to all information at anytime, isn’t happening. Although from what we’ve heard from the founder of Lavabit they legally wouldn’t be allowed to say that even if it was the case. I can’t believe they would go on record denying it however if it was somehow the case.

I’ve played around with the new MSN, Live Mail, Outlook.com email and they are doing some pretty good things over there. I’m not sure it’s enough to get me to switch away from Gmail right now but it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on as they make improvements and try and reestablish themselves as the premier webmail provider that Hotmail used to be.

Posted by James Poling

A socialist, tinkerer, thinker, question asker and all around curiosity seeker. If you'd like to reach me you can use the contact link above or email me at jamespoling [at] gmail [dot] com.

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