British police made the most requests to Microsoft in 2012 to access personal and user generated data across internet messaging service Skype.

Skype Microsoft Police Access privacy
(Credit: Reuters)

According to Microsoft's 2012 Law Enforcement Requests Report, British police made 1,268 separate requests to access Skype account information in 2012, seeking access to the account details of 2,720 users. That's compared to the United States where police made 1,154 Skype requests and Germany where 686 requests were made.

UK authorities also made a large amount of requests to access user data across other Microsoft services such as Hotmail, Outlook and Xbox LIVE. 9,226 requests were placed with Microsoft by British police in 2012, just below the 11,073 requests sent by US police and the 11,434 requests sent by Turkish law enforcement.

However Microsoft says that, even taken globally, the requests made by law enforcement led to only a small amount of user created content - such as emails or instant messages on Skype - being shared. 18 percent of all requests resulted in no data being shared with law enforcement, while 79.8 percent of requests led to Microsoft sharing "non-content information" such as email addresses and passwords.

Only in 2.2 percent of cases worldwide did Microsoft provide police with any user generated content.

More than 75,000 requests were made to Microsoft by law enforcement in 2012, with the report speculating that 137,424 Microsoft accounts will have been affected as a result. These include the accounts of users registered to services like Hotmail, Outlook, SkyDrive, Xbox LIVE, Microsoft Account, Messenger, Skype and Office 365.

How authorities can gain access to Skype accounts and content is currently being debated in France where authorities are pushing to have the internet phoning service register itself as a telecommunications firm, which would allow French police easier access to users' information and content.