Microsoft Promises Better Transparency And Limit On Email Searches

Damage control, please. Questions were raised, queries were extended, about the privacy of all Hotmail or Outlook.com users recently, when it emerged that Microsoft accessed the emails of a blogger.

A snoop of this unnamed blogger led to the reveal of a former employee that leaked Windows 8 code.

Now while Microsoft’s very own Terms of Service for its cloud based email solutions does make it clear that the company does have the right to search these accounts in case such actions are necessary to protect the rights or property of Microsoft or its customers.

This is without court orders, mind you.

So anyway, Microsoft vice president and general counsel Frank Shaw made a statement in the light of recent developments saying that while Redmond can (and is free to) look into user accounts for specific information, it is not doing so, unless in rare cases like this:

“Courts do not issue orders authorising someone to search themselves, since obviously no such order is needed. So even when we believe we have probable cause, it’s not feasible to ask a court to order us to search ourselves.

To ensure we comply with the standards applicable to obtaining a court order, we will rely in the first instance on a legal team separate from the internal investigating team to assess the evidence. We will move forward only if that team concludes there is evidence of a crime that would be sufficient to justify a court order, if one were applicable.”

The company is, however devising new policies that will limit internal Hotmail and Outlook.com searches, this is serious matter for a lot of users, obviously.

This was a limited review — considering the risks involved.

But Microsoft has promised a greater level of transparency, and from now on, future reports will also include information on the number of accounts that got scanned by the company like this, for illegal content and so on. I am sure that is very reassuring for absolute privacy advocates, but there you go.

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