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Microsoft defends its right to read your email

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Microsoft is defending its rights to break into customers’ accounts and read their emails.

The company’s ability — and willingness — to take such an approach became apparent this week.

Microsoft admitted in federal court documents that it forced its way into a blogger’s Hotmail account to track down and stop a potentially catastrophic leak of sensitive software.

The company says its decision is justified.

From the company’s point of view, desperate times call for desperate measures.
“In this case, we took extraordinary actions based on the specific circumstances,” said John Frank, one of the company’s top lawyers, in a blog post Thursday night.

Although the move could be perceived as a breach of trust, Microsoft says it’s allowed to make such unilateral decisions. It pointed to its terms of service: When you use Microsoft communication products — Outlook, Hotmail, Windows Live — you agree to “this type of review … in the most exceptional circumstances,” Frank wrote.

Microsoft’s legal team thought there was enough evidence suggesting the blogger would try selling the illegally obtained intellectual property.

In such instances, law enforcement agents would typically seek a warrant, but Microsoft said it didn’t need one. The servers storing the information are on its own property.