Microsoft Updates Privacy Policy: Can No Longer Snoop Through Hotmail Accounts

 @ryanWneal on March 28 2014 5:04 PM
Brad Smith
Microsoft's general counsel said Microsoft will no longer read your emails. Microsoft

Last week, Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT) got in hot water thanks to a 2012 case of searching through a French blogger’s Hotmail account for leaked Microsoft property. On Friday, Microsoft’s general counsel and executive vice president of legal and corporate affairs, Brad Smith, said the company has reviewed and changed its privacy policy.

If Microsoft finds out that someone has leaked information, the company will no longer take it upon itself to search a user’s accounts for information. It will instead hand the case over to law enforcement, which Edward Snowden has shown has no problem with digital surveillance.

Smith said the policy is effective immediately and that Microsoft will update its terms of service over the coming months to make the policy “clear to consumers and binding on Microsoft.”

The change in effect admits that Microsoft would search through suspicious email accounts, and that it believed in a sort of vigilante-style of justice.

"We’ve advocated that governments should rely on formal legal processes and the rule of law for surveillance activities," Smith wrote in a blog post. "While our own search was clearly within our legal rights, it seems apparent that we should apply a similar principle and rely on formal legal processes for our own investigations involving people who we suspect are stealing from us.”

Yes, Microsoft, the rule of law is usually preferred to vigilante justice.

At least Microsoft has owned up to its mistake and is attempting to make it right. Smith said the tech giant has reached out to the Center for Democracy and Technology to convene with "stakeholders" and the Electronic Frontier Foundation to tackle issues about digital security and privacy.

“We hope that this project can help us all identify potential best practices from other industries and consider the best solutions for the future of digital services,” Smith said.

Microsoft said the French blogger had stolen company-owned source code. 

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