03.25.14

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Nobody Sent to Prison After Microsoft Abused Privacy of Customers

Posted in Microsoft at 7:14 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Another reason to stop using Windows and other Microsoft products/services

Summary: Microsoft’s above-the-law attitude well demonstrated by the snooping scandal and FBI collusion, which was not only violating human rights but also proved profitable to Microsoft (at the expense of taxpayers)

WE NOW know that Microsoft profited from its own privacy violations, pocketing taxpayers’ money through the FBI. Robber baron Bill Gates recently defended mass surveillance, characterising it as essential (for him) and generally confirming what many people already suspected (that he defends the NSA). He does something similar for a profit. Microsoft’s exceptionally strong relationship with the NSA should therefore be seen as ideological, too. Microsoft is not the victim here. The victim is the public, which governments and Microsoft are in essence colluding against.

“Violating the rights of citizens is now the equivalent of a Microsoft product and Microsoft cannot lose any money in this area.”US taxpayers pay Microsoft for US taxpayers to be spied on and Microsoft profits from the FBI (i.e. US taxpayers) as long as nobody puts up a resistance strong enough, e.g. by boycotting Microsoft. One bit of original coverage said: “In December 2012, for instance, Microsoft emailed DITU a PDF invoice for $145,100, broken down to $100 per request for information, the documents appear to show. In August 2013, Microsoft allegedly emailed a similar invoice, this time for $352,200, at a rate of $200 per request. The latest invoice provided, from November 2013, is for $281,000.”

Notice how Microsoft is charging. It’s becoming like a profitable business area. Violating the rights of citizens is now the equivalent of a Microsoft product and Microsoft cannot lose any money in this area. There was other such coverage, even in political sites [1]. As one of the sites that broke the news put it: “These documents show how frequently the government calls on tech companies for information, and how nonchalantly they do business. The DITU allegedly requested information from Microsoft hundreds of times a month, and it appears that the government can buy customer information by simply shooting the right person an email.”

Yes, it’s that simple. There is not even a court order. The illusion of justice defending the innocent is no more. Reading Skype messages is another thing that Microsoft habitually does, as we discovered about a year ago. This is done indiscriminately. Everyone is under surveillance.

Now, consider the fact that nobody at Microsoft has been sent to jail for it. Contrast that with what happened in Germany: “To illustrate the direction in which they are leading debate, I would like to juxtapose the Microsoft claim that it is entitled to examine hotmail traffic to find a leak with what happened when a former Deutsche Telekom security manager undertook similar activities over their networks to also identify a leak. He went to jail.”

This was said in reference to another revelation: Microsoft used surveillance on customers for business reasons [2]. These two latest revelations say something very simple; Regarding arrest of ‘ex’ Microsoft staff that abused access to data, he got fired because he’s ‘ex’, not because of abuse — the abuse is standard practice at Microsoft. According to this, “the software giant, on its own initiative, leafed through the blogger’s Hotmail account and instant-messenger chatter logs…”

This means that “chat logs as well,” as iophk put it, are now targeted. He added that “nothing passing through Redmond is safe. This is the very thing they loudly accuse Google of. No wonder any more where they get the ideas for those accusations.” Microsoft has already admitted doing this (it did not even try to deny or spin it). So who will be sent to jail? Nobody of course. Microsoft is above the law. But also, as some put it, “Microsoft Doesn’t Need a Court Order to Search Your Hotmail” (so nobody should ever use Hotmail or any of these other silly services that host E-mail for ‘free’).

For Microsoft, ‘free’ hosting is an opportunity for espionage, copying, framing, blackmail of competitors etc.

Ballmer shamelessly lied when he said “Google reads your mail, we don’t.” The very opposite seems to be true. Google was found innocent very recently [3].

Michael Arrington, writing in his personal blog, said: “I’m reading about how Microsoft read a blogger’s Hotmail (or other Microsoft hosted email) to determine who leaked Microsoft information to that blogger. Microsoft’s response is pathetic, stating that “the privacy of our customers is incredibly important to us” in the same post that explains that they’ll keep doing it.

“While I think that doing this is both evil and shortsighted (they lose trust and users), the only thing that surprised me was that they admitted it.”

Indeed. But they did.

As Dr. Matt Blaze put it in Twitter: “So I wonder what other activities MS looks through your Hotmail account for? Do they look for people thinking of installing Linux?”

Or worse: how about companies or government departments? Some of them try to keep it secret to avoid retribution or intervention by Microsoft.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. This is how much Microsoft charges the FBI for your info
  2. Microsoft scanned French blogger’s email account to find Windows 8 leaker
  3. Google scores major victory in Gmail-scanning case

    It was a major victory for Google this week after US District Judge Lucy Koh turned down a class-action lawsuit against the search giant over allegedly scanning the contents of peoples’ emails. Had the class-action suit been allowed to proceed, the world’s largest search engine would have faced shelling out an astronomical amount in damages.

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