Richi Jennings

Allegations of email pilfering fly at major Internet companies

March 22, 2014 12:57 PM EDT

Universal Pictures
Email: Everyone reads it.

Email. Bloggers everywhere are checking it, along with the terms of service agreements of the companies providing it. News that Microsoft (NASDAQ:MS) riffled through an inbox to catch an alleged intellectual property thief has prompted a flurry of bloggy finger-pointing and I-told-you-so's.

Fresh on the heels of that news, Michael Arrington, aka Former-Captain-TechCrunch, has a similar allegation of email pilfering mud to sling. Not towards Microsoft: Arrington stirs brackish water, pointing his dirty-end-of-the-stick at Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Gmail.

In IT Blogwatch, bloggers find local Internet providers.

Filling in for our humble blogwatcher Richi Jennings, is a humbler Stephen Glasskeys.

 
Lucian Constantin starts an investigation:

A former Microsoft employee named Alex Kibkalo was arrested Wednesday [for allegedly leaking] prerelease Windows RT updates and product activation software to a French blogger in July and August 2012.
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Court filings revealed that Microsoft's internal investigation involved searching through the...blogger's Hotmail account where it found emails from Kibkalo.  MORE


 
Helping out, Ed Bott shares a tip:

Here's a pro tip if you're planning to get into the industrial espionage business: Don't use your company's free email, file storage, and messaging services to [transfer] that same company's trade secrets to a shadowy figure overseas.  MORE


 
Straight from the horse's mouth:

We believe that Outlook and Hotmail email are and should be private. [There] has been coverage about a particular case, so we want to provide additional context and describe how we are strengthening our policies.
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In this case, we took extraordinary actions based on the specific circumstances. We received information that indicated an employee was providing stolen intellectual property, including code relating to our activation process, to a third party who, in turn, had a history of trafficking for profit in this type of material.  MORE


 
Similarly, Russell Brandom makes a statement:

[While] Microsoft is certainly having a bad week, the problem is much bigger than any single company.
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We've known for a while that email providers could look into your inbox, but the assumption was that they wouldn't.
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Microsoft pointed out its initial statement, "Microsoft's terms of service make clear our permission for this type of review." ... You'll find similar language in the privacy policies from Yahoo and Google.  MORE


 
And Zach Miners can eavesdrop automatically:

[Microsoft is] not alone in this. Other companies including Google and Yahoo have similar language in their terms of service.
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There are at least two class-action lawsuits looking at the way Google's automated systems scan emails. ... One of the suits accuses Google of crossing a "creepy line" by scanning the data of Apps for Education users.
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The way Google's scanning systems work amounts to illegal "interception" or "eavesdropping" under federal and state wiretapping statutes, both suits allege.
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Facebook faces a similar lawsuit. ... It's accused of violating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, as well as privacy and unfair competition laws in California.  MORE


 
Michael Arrington speaks loudly:

I'm reading about how Microsoft read a bloggers Hotmail...to determine who leaked Microsoft information to that blogger.
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While I think that doing this is both evil and shortsighted...the only thing that surprised me was that they admitted it.
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I have first hand knowledge of this. A few years ago, I'm nearly certain that Google accessed my Gmail account after I broke a major story about Google.  MORE


 
Meanwhile, after biding his time, Sam Biddle strikes:

This is a completely anecdotal, unverifiable report. ... But it's probably the first thing Arrington's ever penned that makes nothing but sense.  MORE


 

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