Most recent "security measures" adopted by Microsoft (MSFT) has received harsh criticism from both public and media sector. The tech giant, known for its stance against government spying itself, recently became embroiled in a controversy regarding breach of user privacy.
Microsoft’s decision brings into stark view the company’s invasive policy, and the fact that it views its users’ data as belonging more to the company than the users themselves. The company’s defensive policy states that it has a right to go through its customers’ accounts and read their emails.
What Went Wrong and What Microsoft Has to Say About It
According to an FBI complaint, in 2012, Microsoft came to know that its proprietary software was being sold on eBay by an ex-employee, Alex Kibkalo. The company said that in order to uncover this internal leak, it broke into a users' Hotmail accounts.
Company investigators feared that this leak could empower the hackers who in turn put intellectual property at risk. To stop this illegal method, the company’s lawyers decided to look into emails and instant messages on Windows Live. Although this move may seem highly unethical, Microsoft continues to claim that its terms of service allow it to take any necessary step when required.
The fact, that all the data was stored in Microsoft’s own server, on its own premises, ensures that the company’s action did not violate the law. The company says under circumstances such as this, it can step forward to maintain its security and has no cause to wait for a warrant. In this case, the legal team found ample evidence against the blogger who tried to sell its internal property illegally. On this basis, the company took the needful step immediately, without waiting for the court’s order.
Microsoft’s Efforts to Fix the Situation
After receiving much criticism from the media and the general mass, Microsoft was able to understand the sensitive temperament of the matter. As a measure to fix the situation the company has laid down new policies. The revisions state that the company will refrain from checking third-party email accounts or other services unless given permission by a federal judge.
The company also took the decision to deploy a second legal team apart from the ‘internal investigating team’ to look into a suspected user’s account and submit the report to an outside attorney who is a former federal judge. Apart from this, John Frank, Microsoft deputy general counsel, also mentioned that the company will take exceptionally careful and watchful step before checking a non-employees Hotmail account. Microsoft assured the public that it would publish transparency reports about such searches conducted and the number of customers affected, if any.
But Does It Solve the Problem?
In the eyes of the general mass the company’s actions have already abused the trust that its users had placed in it. Today’s generation is quite dependent on hosting service providers such as Microsoft for conveying their personal information through emails and other services. Because of this a huge amount of trust needs to be present. The company had promised to maintain privacy for its users' messages, but in the turn of events failed to do so, resulting in loss of trust. However, Microsoft’s new policy gives us an assurance that it will maintain user privacy in future. The company needs to work hard to show its users that it can live up to its words. Once the company is able to gain back the lost trust, things can be expected to run smoothly for this tech giant.