New Microsoft Transparency Hub Includes Content-Removal Info

The new Website aggregates several Microsoft disclosures, including a new report on content-removal, or 'Right to Be Forgotten,' requests.

Microsoft Transparency Hub

Microsoft has gathered its reports into its new Transparency Hub, aimed at providing the public with easy access to data concerning the Redmond, Wash., software giant.

The Website "includes a new transparency report that details requests we receive from a variety of parties seeking the removal of online content," John Frank, deputy general counsel and vice president of Microsoft Legal and Corporate Affairs, said in an Oct. 14 announcement. It joins other disclosures from the company like the Law Enforcement Requests Report and U.S. National Security Orders Report, which have been "extensively redesigned," he added.

It's the first time the company has published statistics pertaining to content-removal requests. "The majority of requests covered by this report are for the removal of links to content from our search engine, Bing," Frank stated. Requests fall into three categories, those from governments, copyright owners or European residents asserting their "Right to be Forgotten."

The controversial Right to be Forgotten (RTBF) law gives Europeans living in the EU the right to have damaging, inaccurate or outdated Web links removed from search engines. Earlier this year, Google revealed that it had received 254,000 RTBF requests and evaluated more than 900,000 URLs in the year since the mandate went into effect (May 2014).

During the first half of 2015, Microsoft Bing dealt with just a fraction of the requests its search rival handles. The company reports that a total of 3,546 RTBF requests were received and processed between Jan. 1 and June 30.

In terms of copyright removal requests, Microsoft handled 1,020,142 requests to remove content during the same timeframe. A total of 186 content-removal requests were made, most of which came from the Chinese government (165 requests).

Law enforcement continues to seek data on Microsoft' customers. "Microsoft received a total number of 35,228 requests for customer information from law-enforcement agencies in the first half of 2015. This reflects a slight increase from the 31,002 requests received for the second half of 2014," Frank observed.

Only 3 percent of such requests resulted in the disclosure of customer content. "Microsoft does not disclose customer content without a court order or warrant," Frank said. And the number of reject requests due to failing to pass legal muster doubled over the previous half-year.

"In the first half of 2015, Microsoft rejected 4,383 requests, or 12 percent, for not meeting legal requirements," Frank stated. "In the last half of 2014, Microsoft rejected 2,342 requests for not meeting legal requirements."

Microsoft's Transparency Hub is also home to reports on sustainability, corporate citizenship and workplace diversity. As of June 30, 2015, the company reports that its workforce is 72.1 percent male and 27.5 percent female.

Men occupy 82.5 percent of leadership roles, Microsoft disclosed. Ethnically, the majority of the company workers are Caucasian (59.4 percent), followed by those of Asian descent (28.8 percent).

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...