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Microsoft Clarifies E-Mail Snooping Policies After Windows 8 Leak
Microsoft Clarifies E-Mail Snooping Policies After Windows 8 Leak

By Jennifer LeClaire
March 21, 2014 10:17AM

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Redmond's e-mail snooping actions in the wake of the leak of Windows 8 documents were appropriate. But despite the Microsoft Windows 8 case, users should remember that e-mail isn't designed to afford privacy. Here’s a simple rule of thumb -- don’t send anything in e-mail that you wouldn’t want to see as front page news, said security expert Craig Young.
 



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Surprised by Reactions

We caught up with Craig Young, security researcher at security firm Tripwire, to get his take on Microsoft’s moves. He told us he’s surprised by the reactions to Microsoft’s handling of this situation.

“Personally, I think that Microsoft was appropriate in their actions but regardless of the details of this particular case, users should remember that e-mail is not designed to afford privacy,” Young said. “Here’s a very simple rule of thumb -- don’t send anything in e-mail that you wouldn’t want to see as front page news.”

As he sees it, users who are concerned about the privacy of their Hotmail accounts are better off using client-side cryptography such as GnuPG rather than calling foul on Redmond.

Expect to be Searched

Tyler Reguly, manager of security research at TripWire, told us consumers using free services should expect that their accounts may be searched if there is enough evidence of misdoing, especially against the company hosting the account. His view is that this shouldn’t apply to paid accounts because consumers paying for a service should deserve a greater expectation of privacy.

“Microsoft's claim that servers onsite eliminate the possibility of a court order, which seems logical, but can data centers use the same logic?” Reguly asked. “Data center servers are stored on premise, so does that mean data center owners can access them and search them as they please? It sounds awful to give advice to criminals but if you're going to break the law, at least run your own servers.”

Ultimately, he said, this points to a legal grey area: Does virtual ownership matter more than physical ownership? Reguly concludes: “Can we get to the point where legal access is based on virtual ownership? The whole issue is a legal can of worms.”

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