Microsoft pledges to stop reading customer emails

Microsoft has announced that the company will rely and lean on law enforcement agencies when it comes to investigating instances of people using Microsoft services to “traffic in stolen intellectual or physical property from Microsoft,” as Brad Smith, Microsoft’s General Counsel & Executive Vice President of Legal & Corporate Affairs says in this blog post. Smith said that the change in policy is “effectively immediately.”

The announcement comes just over a week after the arrest of Alex Kibkalo, a former Microsoft employee who reportedly leaked Windows 8 code to a French blogger prior to its release in 2012. As part of Microsoft’s investigation into the matter, the company read messages stored in the Hotmail account of the blogger that Kibkalo leaked the data and information to. This revelation raised privacy concerns.

“While our own search was clearly within our legal rights, it seems apparent that we should apply a similar principle and rely on formal legal processes for our own investigations involving people who we suspect are stealing from us,” said Smith. “Therefore, rather than inspect the private content of customers ourselves in these instances, we should turn to law enforcement and their legal procedures.”

Smith also announced that Microsoft will partner with The Center for Democracy and Technology and The Electronic Frontier Foundation as part of efforts to “consider the best solutions for the future of digital services.”

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