Microsoft caught reading Hotmail inbox of blogger

“Microsoft is caught up in a privacy storm after it admitted it read the Hotmail inbox of a blogger while pursuing a software leak investigation,” BBC News reports. “On Thursday, the firm acknowledged it read the anonymous blogger’s emails in order to identify an employee it suspected of leaking information.”

“Microsoft owns Hotmail, a free email service now called,” The Beeb reports. “John Frank, deputy general counsel for Microsoft, said it took ‘extraordinary actions in this case.’ While the search was technically legal, he added Microsoft would consult outside counsel in the future.”

“The search was legal because it fell within Microsoft’s terms of service which state that the company can access information in accounts that are stored on its “Communication Services”, which includes email, chat areas, forums, and other communication facilities,” The Beeb reports. “Nonetheless, revelations of the search have led to renewed focus on the privacy violations of technology firms. It has also left Microsoft in a difficult position, as the firm has often criticised rival Google for its automatic scanning of users’ emails in order to serve them with advertising.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: From Microsoft’s “Don’t Get Scroogled” website:

Microsoft hypocrites

Microsoft: Total hypocrites.


    1. Of course but let me add some points here:

      1) Reading is a whole lot different than scanning words to serve ads.

      2) The reading was done due to an investigation.

      3) “The search was legal because it fell within Microsoft’s terms of service which state that the company can access information in accounts that are stored on its “Communication Services””

      That includes Skype. Those who use Skype make sure you only use it for conversations about your favorite soup operas.

      4) Those who think other companies (service providers, phone carriers, and the like) are not doing this (reading your electronic “private” digital communications, e-mail is one) please think and re-think again.

        1. If you have an iCloud account, you did pay for it. You must have an Apple device to make an iCloud account. Apple has no compelling reason to read their customer’s emails or target them with ads.

  1. If the Microsoft haters here can’t see the difference between Google’s regular, routine scanning of every single email and Microsoft’s one-time look based on illegal activity, then they’re just choosing to be blind. I’m no fan of Microsoft and actively avoid everything they make, but this is just silly.

    1. Maybe, but in terms of invading my privacy it could be argued that people would rather have some algorithm look at their email than a person reading it and understanding it.

    2. “Microsoft’s one-time look based on illegal activity”

      The one time they got caught. Illegal or not, Microsoft is not the police. They have no specific authority in legal matters. What they do have is a blatantly misleading ad campaign and an onerous user agreement. They deserve no pass for that.

  2. To be fair, going through someone’s emails as part of an internal investigation regarding an employee’s wrongdoing is a completely different animal from Google automatically scanning everyone’s emails for terms on which to base advertisements.

    That said, I think Microsoft just Microshafted itself.

      1. Wrong, it’s in the Terms of Service. Says so right in the article.

        Is it inappropriate to rifle through someone’s private correspondences? Yes. He’ll yes. A million times yes. Was it illegal or did Microsoft not have the right? No.

        1. I am not a legal person but I might add: ” ‘potentially’ an employee’s wrongdoing” – the search must be predicated on probable cause, No? Or is there an exception to the Terms of Service?

    1. You really think Google only scans emails for advertising? How about key works like: nuke, bomb, plane, New York, anal, rape, little boy, or even corporate merger, stock should skyrocket or how about – invented time travel. If you think all those emails go into the advertising bin I have some swamp land in Florida to sell you.

      1. Did I say Google ONLY does that? Or are you just assuming that to pick a fight like a little troll?

        I think anyone in the post-9/11 (and especially the post-Snowden world) would assume that Google scans for key phrases in people’s emails. But that doesn’t change the fact that Google sifts through your emails automatically, rather than specifically targeting an individual as part of an investigation.

        That doesn’t mean I SUPPORT what Google does. I hate it. I think it’s wrong. I think it SHOULD BE illegal. That’s why I don’t use Google services anymore.

        Don’t try to pick fights with me because you read too much into what I said or want to make yourself seem smarter than you actually are.

        1. Sorry to disagree, but I believe Google does target individuals and tracks them much like the CIA, NSA and other agencies track. For example, let’s say you are an engineer employed at XYZ Corp, are working on hologram technology and have a Google email account. I believe Google will either feed this user’s emails to their own engineers or have analysts monitor this “case” study and others like it. Do I have proof? No. But knowing Google as the evil company they are it seems very conceivable they are doing this.

        2. Case in point – the new Motorolla smart watch. If you study the design it looks very similar to something Apple would build. Look at the edges. To me they look like the edges of an iPhone. I think the watch is beautiful. Did Google steel Apple’s design? It is possible Google has targeted Apple employees and sniffed out their Google emails or sniffed out friends and/or family members of Apple employees.

        3. 1) That’s called corporate espionage, and I’m sure Apple would investigate that thoroughly if it were even a remote possibility.

          2) It’s HIGHLY unlikely that Apple allows sensitive information such as that to be passed through an insecure service like Gmail.

          3) You really think Apple employees would email their FAMILIES about top-secret projects, when Apple is known for keeping such things under wraps very well?

          Stop being paranoid.

        4. Hopefully, you are correct and Apple’s internal security is infallible. But, knowing how nefarious Google is and how much the Obama administration loves Google and Amazon, i doubt Apple has has all their bases covered.

          Paranoid? Yes, I have a right to be. Years ago I was targeted through Yahoo mail/groups and had contacts with the CIA and NSA. Why did they approach me? I think it started with me writing about my God and angel experiences to members of an antigravity forum.

          After those contacts I preached to many about the fact that email was not secure and all networked cameras go through the agencies, etc. The response from people was either I was crazy and/or paranoid.

        5. I think there’s a difference between your personal experiences and the idea that Apple employees are stupid enough to indirectly hand their competitor information about future products by using free services (I’m willing to bet that Apple employees only converse about projects through secure means, i.e. means controlled by Apple and not by competitors) and discussing those products with friends or family via email.

          For Motorola to rip off an Apple design in the way you advocate, Apple employees would have to be sending detailed design schematics to their family and friends. That’s not just “I doubt Apple has all their bases covered,” that’s saying Apple employees are complete idiots and disobey even the most basic of security precautions.

          The simplest solution is that Motorola and others simply devote more time and effort to the exterior design of products, with the inspiration being “What would Apple make?” Perhaps even hiring past Apple employees? Or contracting design firms?

          I’m not saying corporate espionage doesn’t happen. But it definitely doesn’t happen by stealing designs from Gmail accounts.

        6. Okay. I was apparently unclear in my last post.

          Google constantly sifts through everyone’s correspondences on Google services all the time. This is an established fact. That is Google’s standard operating procedure.

          Does Google do targeted investigations? I’m sure they do, when someone trips whatever red flags exist in their automated system. I’m not disputing that.

          What I’m saying is, unlike Microsoft, Google is always tracking everything everyone does for its own purposes.

          Microsoft BEGAN with an investigation which LED to them (completely legally) invading this blogger’s privacy.

          Google BEGINS by (legally) violating everyone’s privacy, and THEN launches targeted investigations.

          That’s a whole world of difference. I’m sorry I was unclear in my previous post.

        7. Google may not monitor a single account but the fact they search for keywords means they also collect a count of key words which, when aggregated, is likely used to predict trends. This in itself is powerful data.

          What exactly is a keyword? Is it as simple as every noun in the dictionary?

  3. I know I am going against the grain here, but this guy was stealing code from Microsoft. I would rather they pinpoint this email directly rather than sift through the content of everyone’s email for such things.

    1. Actually, they went through a blogger’s account to find the guy that stole the source code. A somewhat less clear-cut scenario.

      But the bottom line is this — If you’re going to do stupid things (distribute source code you have no right to be distributing), don’t use email (any, not just Microsoft’s) to do it.

      1. Yeah, it’s a little more gray area. But at the end of the day, the guy was using a Microsoft service. They were within their rights based on the Terms of Service the blogger agreed to when he signed up. They didn’t violate the law. They were investigating an internal matter with a limited scope.

        Targeted investigations are vastly superior to giant dragnets in terms of protecting the consumers.

        Still, it’s bad press for Microsoft no matter how you approach it. Most people will just go nuts at the “violation of their privacy” rather than taking a minute to think the situation through.

  4. could be wrong, but I think when you click agree on Hotmail’s email account, if you read the fine print, you GIVE MS the right to read every one of your emails.
    Always good to read the fine print.

  5. In related news, a child used his parents credit card and was surprised when they read the bill and confronted him about the purchase. “They had no right to review my purchases!” the bewildered boy exclaimed.

  6. Don’t think that MS are hypocrites.

    The statement is they do not go through your e-mail to sell ads.
    So as long as they go through your e-mail because they are bored, want blackmail material, or to spread gossip… no hypocrisy.

  7. When you sign up for an online service or an app with internet connectivity READ the terms of service or EULA. MS reserves the right under the agreement.

    I have an Outlook Mail account which I use for junk of limited value. Most websites demand an e-mail to register, so I give them this one. Banking, stock trading, work related and shopping go on a completely different account.

    If you want secure e-mail pay for it.

    Here is but one example:

  8. I have an email account I inherited when I bought a business. Originally, it was hosted by a local ISP.
    Now that ISP has switched its hosting to gmail . . . which means that it is now “scanned” along with the rest of them.


  9. As the day goes by all of the major players are now admitting to doing the same and this includes Apple. iBeacon alone makes you stop and think. You all need to stop with the Apple self-righteousness as it dilutes the merits of your views.

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