Microsoft Backs Off Searching User Emails

Microsoft says it will bring law enforcement into future investigations that involve investigation of Hotmail accounts.

Microsoft Backs Off Searching User Emails

Microsoft plans to back off the snooping: the company is amending its terms of service following a software leak investigation.

The search made headlines last week, as news broke that Microsoft had gone through a blogger’s Hotmail account to look for suspected stolen code. The move prompted fresh discussion on how Microsoft handles privacy. (Via BGR, CNET, Ars Technica)

In a blog post Friday, Microsoft announced a change. If it finds evidence of stolen intellectual property on its Hotmail service,

“We will not inspect a customer’s private content ourselves. Instead, we will refer the matter to law enforcement if further action is required.”

So, Softpedia suggests, the change is largely cosmetic. Microsoft was always within its rights to make these searches, even if the practice didn’t cast the company in the best light.

“Under the new guidelines, if Microsoft believes that someone is stealing from it, the company would call the cops and only then look into the respective account. It’s basically the same thing as before, but the whole process now takes longer.”

BGR says “Microsoft wants to retain the trust of its users, and one way to do that is to give up access to content that is within its legal rights to obtain, even if that means complicating the process by calling upon the legal system to interject.”

In the meantime, Microsoft says it’s working with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology to plan talks on best practices for future privacy-sensitive investigations.

The EFF has signaled its intent to participate, saying it commends Microsoft “for its willingness to reconsider its policies.”

Microsoft says it will adjust its terms of service to include this new language within the coming months.