Privacy Watch: Microsoft Backpedals On Email Snooping, Government Increases Google Data Requests
“Effective immediately, if we receive information indicating that someone is using our services to traffic in stolen intellectual or physical property from Microsoft, we will not inspect a customer’s private content ourselves,” wrote Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith in a blog posting on Friday. “Instead, we will refer the matter to law enforcement if further action is required.”
Under Microsoft’s previous terms of service, the company was allowed to “access, disclose, or preserve information associated with your use of the services, including (without limitation) your personal information and content” in order to “protect the rights or property of Microsoft.” Now, instead of acting on its own, the company will “rely on formal legal processes for our own investigations involving people who we suspect are stealing from us.”
Besides promising to increase privacy protections for its customers, Microsoft is also convening a meeting of privacy advocates and various other stakeholders in order to “identify potential best practices from other industries and consider the best solutions for the future of digital services,” wrote Smith. According to Microsoft, well-known digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation will be a key participant.
Although Google acknowledged that its user base has increased during the last four years, the Internet search giant also noted that “we’re also seeing more and more governments start to exercise their authority to make requests.” Some of these requests for personal data are overly broad in Google’s view, and the company pointed out that it has consistently pushed back against those types of requests. Google outlined its process for handling government requests for user data in a video that can be seen above.
Google also noted that it was fighting to publish more information about National Security Letters and FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court requests. “You deserve to know when and how governments request user information online, and we’ll keep fighting to make sure that’s the case,” wrote Salgado.
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