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Microsoft Says It's 'Listening' to Snooping Concerns

The company reacts to charges that it searched through a user's Hotmail account to discover the source of a code leak.

Microsoft, facing criticism over reportedly reading a blogger’s Hotmail emails, might want to rethink its recent blog post.

The drama started when former Microsoft employee Alex Kibkalo was arrested on Monday for stealing and leaking unreleased Windows code. He reportedly shared the information with a blogger.

Microsoft then allegedly went through the blogger’s Microsoft Hotmail email account in hopes of uncovering the leaker. Now the company is trying to quell the rise of criticism from privacy advocates with a blog post titled, “We’re listening: Additional steps to protect your privacy.”

Not exactly the greatest choice of words for a company accused of snooping. The crux of Microsoft’s message, from the company’s general counsel Brad Smith:

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. Instead, we will refer the matter to law enforcement if further action is required.

In December, Smith wrote that snooping by the National Security Agency (NSA) “potentially now constitutes an 'advanced persistent threat,' alongside sophisticated malware and cyber attacks."

On Friday, he drew a connection between his criticism of government spying and Microsoft’s own actions.

“We’ve advocated that governments should rely on formal legal processes and the rule of law for surveillance activities,” he wrote. “While our own search was clearly within our legal rights, it seems apparent that we should apply a similar principle and rely on formal legal processes for our own investigations involving people who we suspect are stealing from us.”