clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

California court says Microsoft leak was Microsoft’s fault

The court has since removed all documents related to FTC v. Microsoft

Phil Spencer, vice president of Microsoft Game Studios at Microsoft Corp. speaks during Microsoft Xbox news conference at the Electronic Entertainment Expo at the Galen Center on June 10, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. Thousands are expected to attend the annual three-day convention to see the latest games and announcements from the gaming industry. Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Microsoft’s leak that spread Tuesday morning revealed a ton of explosive Xbox secrets, and the United States District Court for the Northern District of California says it was Microsoft’s own fault.

On Sept. 15, the court uploaded dozens of documents related to the Federal Trade Commission v. Microsoft case — a normal part of the judicial process. Both Microsoft and the FTC have had documents uploaded over the past few months, during the preliminary injunction hearing that Microsoft ultimately won. Typically, the documents are heavily redacted, with large blocks blacking out sensitive or confidential information. Mistakes do happen: Sony Interactive Entertainment filed a badly redacted document in June, revealing development costs for both Horizon Forbidden West and The Last of Us Part 2. The court ended up deleting everything from the file repository when that happened, a mistake that’s minuscule in comparison to what happened this week.

At first glance, the documents uploaded on Sept. 15 appear to have the expected redactions — nothing too surprising came out of them. But on closer inspection, seemingly first undertaken by a ResetEra forum member, one PDF had several unredacted documents attached to it that were absolutely full of Microsoft and Xbox secrets. Over roughly 12 hours, journalists and others pored over the documents, which revealed an all-new Xbox Series X design, Xbox chief Phil Spencer’s desire to buy Nintendo, and Microsoft’s misjudgement of Baldur’s Gate 3, among much, much more.

Immediately after the news started to spread, people began to wonder: How does something like this happen? Whose mistake is this? The Federal Trade Commission was quick with the not us!; FTC director of public affairs Douglas Farrar told Polygon that “the FTC was not responsible for uploading Microsoft’s plans for its games and consoles to the court website.”

Court document explaining the Microsoft leak. Image: United States District Court for the Northern District of California

Microsoft hasn’t responded to Polygon’s request for comment. But a court representative pointed Polygon to an order signed on Tuesday by Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley, who is presiding over the case, that says Microsoft is to blame for the blunder. In it, the court said it ruled on the remaining issues of evidence sealing on Sept. 7, asking the parties to provide a “secure cloud link” with the established redactions made to the exhibits. Microsoft, she wrote in the order, provided the secure cloud link to the court, which then uploaded the documents to the file repository.

“The parties have notified the Court that the version of the exhibits provided contained non-public information and the Court has removed the trial exhibits from the internet,” Judge Corley wrote.

With the documents removed, the parties must submit the documents again — with the appropriate redactions — before Sept. 22. “The parties shall simultaneously file a written certification signed by all parties, and non-parties whose information is contained in the admitted trial exhibits, verifying they have reviewed the exhibits and certify they contain only public information in accordance with the Court’s orders,” Judge Corley wrote.

To put it in simple terms, Tuesday’s wave of unprecedented leaks is Microsoft’s bad.

Update: Spencer tweeted on Tuesday afternoon that Microsoft and Xbox have “seen the conversation around old emails and documents.” He continued: “It is hard to see our team’s work shared in this way because so much has changed and there’s so much to be excited about right now, and in the future. We will share the real plans when we are ready.”

Spencer did not mention the gaffe of uploading unredacted documents.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Patch Notes

A weekly roundup of the best things from Polygon