Is it ok for Microsoft to spy on you?Submitted by Michael Nystrom on Fri, 03/21/2014 - 14:16
SEATTLE — Technology companies have spent months denying they know anything about broad government spying on people who use their Internet services.
But a legal case filed this week against a former Microsoft employee shows the power these companies themselves have to snoop on their customers whenever they want to.
Microsoft accused the former employee of stealing company trade secrets in the form of software code for the Windows operating system, and leaking the software to a blogger. In an investigation, the company figured out who revealed the information by reading the emails and instant messages of the blogger on his Microsoft-operated Hotmail and message accounts.
While Microsoft’s actions appear to have been legal and within the scope of its own policies, its reading of the private online accounts of a customer without a court order was highly unusual and raises questions about its protections for customer data, privacy lawyers say.
“What blogger will use that service now?” said Jennifer Granick, an attorney and director of civil liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society.
Ms. Granick said it appeared that Microsoft’s actions were within the boundaries of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which allows service providers to read and disclose customers’ communications if it is necessary to protect the rights or property of the service provider. Still, she called the move by Microsoft “stupid” and said it should raise concerns among bloggers and journalists about using Microsoft Internet services to communicate with their sources.