This Friday, the international hacking group SEA published internal emails from Microsoft which go into details about exactly how much the country charges agencies like the FBI for the flood of information requests they receive each month.
And here’s one thing we can gather from the data: it’s not cheap to spy on the same citizens who pay your salary.
According to the leaked documents, Microsoft charges a flat fee of $200 USD for each request on single individual. The details of these packets were first released to The Daily Dotby SEA before being published, much in the same way Edward Snowden entrusted his cache of damning documents to The Guardian and the Washington Post.
The emails appear to take place between the FBI and Microsoft’s Global Criminal Compliance team, going into extensive specifics about how much each request cost, the number of requests sent and received by the agency every month, and the balance sheets for how much Microsoft is charging per release.
For instance, the most recent invoice available from November 2013 reveals that the US government spent just over $280,000 to pore over the information of 1,400 individuals who were either directly suspected of terrorist activities themselves, or had at one point or another interacted with someone who was on their watchlist.
No one from the FBI or Microsoft have come forward yet to confirm or deny the allegations, and seeing as how this is SEA’s very first leak since they took to Twitter to brag about the breach, one would not be blamed for remain skeptical of their validity until the accused parties have their opportunity to weigh in on the problem.
The one possibly bright side of this whole issue is that unlike the programs of the NSA which indiscriminately suck down as much data on as many people as possible, the FBI have to provide invoices, receipts, and paper trails on every person they choose to monitor through these types of efforts which, for all intents and purposes, look about as above board as one could hope for.