Microsoft the Ethics of Invading Email Privacy

Microsoft the Ethics of Invading Email Privacy

Microsoft has publically stated that they invaded a blogger’s email inbox who was under suspicion of leaking information, leading some to think whether this breach of privacy is ethical or not. In 2012, Executives had been tipped a blogger working for them had taken photos of a Windows 8 operating system, which at the time had been released yet. The company had made finding the identity of the mole a top priority.

In order to find the source of this exposure, Microsoft began a manhunt on who they considered was the conspirator: Alex Kibalko, an ex-employee who worked for the company in Lebanon. Administrators inspected Kilbalko’s Hotmail inbox in order to discover he was the culprit. Legally, Microsoft is in the right. Any employee working for a giant firm has to sign a contract implying that even if the employee no longer works for the company they are forbidden from revealing inside information to the public. In their Terms of Use under the headline Use of Services it states “Microsoft reserves the right at all times to disclose any information as Microsoft deems necessary to satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process or governmental request.” The scandal deals a blow to the company’s credibility; being one of the biggest software firms in the world they are expected to hire reliable people.

The investigation may lead to bringing up the subject matter of George Orwell’s bestseller Nineteen Eighty-Four. Invading emails and searching through people’s privacy leads to comparing Microsoft’s twisted ethics to Big Brother. Many will be discouraged from using Hotmail (nowadays known by Outlook.com) as they will have fear rich tycoons spying on their personal information. Corporations have their backs to the ropes because hackers and informers create a vicious circle. Hackers and informers steal information, which produces panic, resulting in higher security. When hackers and informers break through this higher security, the cycle starts again. Is it always a business’s fault that drastic methods must be taken?

Humanity has always been plagued with the philosophical dilemma of deciding what is most important: security or freedom. Too much security can lead to corporate corruption and little room for artistic expression, too much freedom leaves enough space for crime to happen often and go unpunished. Microsoft is after all a company; the purpose of a company is to create profit. Leaked information could lead to a loss in profit, so one could argue that logically a company must do what it must to avoid such damage. On the other hand, some could argue that allowing enterprises to have the ability to infiltrate confidentiality and get away with it is unethical. To turn the other cheek in with the intention of believing their desperate measure is to keep the criminals at bay could be considered cowardly. Benjamin Franklin once said “those who give up their liberty for more security deserve neither.”

If an industry provides people with freedom, do they have the right to take away such freedom in order to protect their investment? An email is a privilege of privacy and Microsoft invading could be a breach of ethics, even if it is legally allowed. However then again, what is legal may not always be morally correct.

Opinion by Ignacio Gatti

Sources:
BBC News
Microsoft

One Response to "Microsoft the Ethics of Invading Email Privacy"

  1. hogan   March 23, 2014 at 8:20 am

    Customers have a choice, they don’t have to use Microsoft’s services. Either except no privacy and use “free” services from Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Yahoo Dropbox, or use a paid-for service whose profit model is based on maintaining your privacy and data security and not on exploitation of everything they learn about you. Take for example http://www.xcapsa.com – they profit from keeping your data (email, network storage/sync) private and secure. As services like this make data encryption easier for the “average mortal”, companies like Microsoft will find it more difficult to take advantage of their oligarchic position in the “free Internet services” circle and have to rely on traditional legal systems to access your data and decryption keys. And that doesn’t seem so bad.

    Reply

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