Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Right to Read User E-mails

Alex Hern:

Microsoft is not unique in claiming the right to read users’ emails – Apple, Yahoo and Google all reserve that right as well, the Guardian has determined.


Google’s terms require the user to “acknowledge and agree that Google may access… your account information and any Content associated with that account… in a good faith belief that such access… is reasonably necessary to… protect against imminent harm to the… property… of Google”. Apple “may, without liability to you, access… your Account information and Content… if we have a good faith belief that such access… is reasonably necessary to… protect the… property… of Apple”.

Update (2014-03-27): Mike Arrington (via John Gruber):

A few years ago, I’m nearly certain that Google accessed my Gmail account after I broke a major story about Google. A couple of weeks after the story broke my source, a Google employee, approached me at a party in person in a very inebriated state and said that they (I’m being gender neutral here) had been asked by Google if they were the source. The source denied it, but was then shown an email that proved that they were the source.

The source had corresponded with me from a non Google email account, so the only way Google saw it was by accessing my Gmail account.

Joe Kissell:

In short, even the best privacy policy, crafted lovingly by People Who Really Care™, and agreed to under oath by every employee, doesn’t actually protect your privacy. The most it can do — and even this is a stretch — is provide you some recourse if your policy should be violated. If you can prove that this happens, maybe someone will be fired or maybe you’ll get financial compensation or whatever. But in the United States, even where the law says a company must have a privacy policy, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the privacy policy is legally binding. And if it were, it would still be like any other law: it would penalize, but not prevent, misbehavior.

Update (2014-03-28): Microsoft:

Over the past week, we’ve had the opportunity to reflect further on this issue, and as a result of conversations we’ve had internally and with advocacy groups and other experts, we’ve decided to take an additional step and make an important change to our privacy practices.

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