Microsoft will no longer read your emails if it thinks you're stealing from it

Safe from Microsoft snooping
Safe from Microsoft snooping

Microsoft is implementing even more changes to its policy on when it can read users email. Namely, it's calling in legal reinforcements.

The Office for iPad maker found itself in hot water earlier this month when it was revealed the company searched through a blogger's Hotmail account to sniff out a former employee who leaked confidential source code.

Microsoft sought to explain itself last week, and while it said it was within its rights to search the email account, it mandated several changes.

Now, the Softies are still saying they were lawfully allowed to search the account in this case, but Microsoft General Counsel and EVP Brad Smith acknowledged in a blog post the situation "raised legitimate questions about the privacy interests of our customers."

What's new

Smith wrote that from now on, when Microsoft receives intel someone is using its services to traffic stolen property (intellectual or physical) from the company, it won't search a customer's private content.

Instead, Microsoft will turn the matter over to law enforcement if more action is needed.

The change takes effect immediately, and Microsoft said it will change its customers terms of service to reflect the new policy, making it "clear to customers and binding on Microsoft" in the coming months.

Criticism is "always uncomfortable," Smith wrote, and the company has had to endure plenty of it over the last week. However, in our "post-Snowden era," having an active public discussion on privacy concerns is something Smith said Microsoft welcomes.

The company has contacted the appropriate advocacy channels, and apparently the Center for Democracy and Technology has agreed to "convene stakeholders." The Electronic Frontier Foundation will be a "key participant."

"We hope that this project can help us all identify best practices from other industries and consider the best solutions for the future of digital services," Smith wrote. "We've agreed to help support this effort and will participate wholeheartedly. We hope that other companies will join in as well."

Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle was previously a news editor at TechRadar, leading consumer tech news and reviews. Michelle is now a Content Strategist at Facebook.  A versatile, highly effective content writer and skilled editor with a keen eye for detail, Michelle is a collaborative problem solver and covered everything from smartwatches and microprocessors to VR and self-driving cars.