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Former Chief Privacy Officer warned Microsoft of NSA in 2011

Snowden wasn't such a surprise to some people.


Patrick Howell O'Neill


Posted on Jan 5, 2015   Updated on May 29, 2021, 8:35 pm CDT

In 2013, when Edward Snowden began leaking information about the massive surveillance program known as PRISM, much of the world was shocked.

But for dozens of high level Microsoft employees, the news may have been old hat.

According to Microsoft’s then-Chief Privacy Advisor, Caspar Bowden, he warned dozens of colleagues in 2011, two full years before Snowden’s National Security Agency disclosures became worldwide news. Specifically, he says, he told dozens of colleagues that increasingly gutted American privacy laws, thanks to the 2008 FISA Amendment Act, meant the NSA could conduct “unlimited surveillance” on cloud computing data sold to foreign countries.

Though Snowden’s leaks, the world later learned that the NSA indeed does use PRISM to tap into data stored by companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, and that its legal authority is derived from the FISA Amendments Act, Section 702.

“The deputy general counsel of Microsoft turned green,” Bowden said in a talk at the Chaos Computer Congress in Germany. “I’d never seen anyone turn green before but she did.”

He says he was promptly threatened to be fired and then, two months later, he was let go “without cause” after a nine-year stint at the company.

Bowden, a U.K. native who has become a vocal privacy advocate in the wake of the Snowden revelations, has said previously that he doesn’t trust his old employer. But he went a step further in that talk.

“If you’re not an American,” he said, “you cannot really trust … software services provided by U.S. companies.”

H/T Telecomasia | Photo via TAKA@P.P.R.S/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0) 

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*First Published: Jan 5, 2015, 1:11 pm CST