Apple, Yahoo and Google All Reserve The Right To Read Your Email

So there was a story out this week that Microsoft had read the emails of a French blogger who had received code from a former Microsoft employee, the employee has been arrested in Seattle, accused of leaking Windows 8 to the tech blogger.

The blogger actually contacted Microsoft to verify what was going on, Microsoft then went through his hotmail and messenger and found the email from the former employee.

This of course has created quite a stir about privacy and what providers can and cannot do. The Guardian is out today with a story where Apple, Yahoo and Google have said they reserve the right to read their users emails.

From the article:

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.

The broad rights email providers claim for themselves has come to light following Microsoft’s admission that it read a journalist’s Hotmail account in an attempt to track down the source of an internal leak. But most webmail services claim the right to read users’ email if they believe that such access is necessary to protect their property.

Microsoft’s own terms of service allow the company to access content “when Microsoft forms a good faith belief that doing so is necessary [to] protect the… property of Microsoft”. It made use of that right to read the email of an un-named journalist who had allegedly taken possession of the source code to Windows 8 thanks to an internal leak at the firm.

Following the revelation that Microsoft could, and did, read users’ email, the firm’s deputy general counsel told the Guardian that it would be tightening up its privacy policy. The new rules require an internal and external legal team to review any internal requests for access, and commit the firm to increased transparency over future requests.

Read the full story here


  1. Raymond Hackney says

    Does it open the door for a mainstream private email provider Joseph ? Or are we all never going to believe a single company when it comes to privacy online ? That horse may never be coming back to the barn.

  2. Grim says

    I wonder how many people who are concerned with their privacy post every little detail (or even just a few) about their life on Facebook? By now I would hope that most people would know that email isn’t entirely secure. Especially when it’s hosted by big companies like MS, Google, etc.

    That said, there’s a ton of email out there… it’s not like MS or the like are reading every email sent manually. Google has said they (or more accurately, their bots) look for keywords in email, to better serve their customer’s advertising needs. (Of course.)

    The Internet as a whole isn’t a place where one can be guaranteed privacy. Not even the real world can guarantee that. Want privacy? Go old school and write messages in invisible ink. Or whisper something to someone. But even then…

  3. Joseph Peterson says


    My response was admittedly a bit glib and very vague. To dilate a bit, I’d say that we’re right to desire — but wrong to expect — privacy. We can push back to some extent, but assured privacy is out of the question for an age when data is digitized and stored remotely by third parties. Real privacy depends on physical documents contained in safes or hidden under the floor boards.

    When laws are no protection from governments spying on citizens, corporate email providers can hardly be expected to refrain from dipping into the correspondence of their customers whenever convenient.

    It would be good to see greater controversy arise from this story, good to see some lip-service / legislation in political circles, and good to see more email providers pop up to offer consumers competitive choices on the basis of trust and security. François’s is a good idea that should appeal to people.

    But nothing can really give us privacy in the 21st century, in my opinion — not unless we turn our backs on media that can be monitored such as the internet, mobile phones, cloud storage, etc.

  4. Louise says

    @ Grimm said:

    I would hope that most people would know that email isn’t entirely secure.

    My sites got hacked after I communicated username and psswd to a contractor via gmail. Never will insert a psswd into public email again! I pay Fluid $200/yr for hosting, where I can host my own emails – that seems more secure.

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