To Catch A Meaningless Leaker, Microsoft Made It Clear It Has No Concern For Your Privacy
from the cost-benefit dept
Yesterday, we wrote about the bizarre decision by Microsoft to search through a reporter’s Microsoft Hotmail email account, in an attempt to catch the Microsoft employee who had leaked that reporter a copy of Windows 8. While most of the initial stories about this had focused on the arrest of the employee, Alex Kibkalo, and had pushed the email snooping issue to the bottom of the story, it appears that the email snooping is quickly becoming the story. After all, the leak itself was basically meaningless. Some early screenshots of Windows 8 were never a big deal, and Microsoft has struggled to get adoption of Windows 8 not because of any leak, but because a variety of other issues. So capturing the leaker does little of benefit for Microsoft.
However, at the same time, revealing that the company has no problem snooping through users’ email accounts if it feels it is beneficial to Microsoft is hugely damaging to the company. People need to trust their email providers. A well-known venture capitalist I know has spoken repeatedly about how so many people use Gmail, even when doing things like negotiating deals with Google (or competitors!) because they actually trust Google not to abuse their privacy and snoop on those emails. In part, they do this because they know if Google was exposed for snooping on emails that way there would be a mass exodus from Gmail to alternative providers. Yet, Microsoft doesn’t seem to have considered just how astoundingly damaging it is to violate its own users privacy — whether permitted by Microsoft’s terms of service or not.
On a basic cost-benefit analysis it’s difficult to see how anyone at Microsoft thought this was a wise move. Absolutely wipe out any possible trust and privacy for all email users to track down one meaningless leaker? Instead, what this shows is how “piracy obsession” blinds companies. They seem to forget all about cost-benefit analysis and assume that “something must be done” at all costs, even if it basically destroys an entire business line for the company.
Microsoft is now desperately trying to minimize the damage as it’s realizing just how it’s wiped out all of its bogus talk about protecting your privacy. They’ve announced new policies concerning how and when they’ll violate your privacy, but this seems quite clearly to be a case of too little, too late.