The software giant was met with uproar when it revealed it had searched through a private Hotmail account to find correspondence with Alex Kibkalo, a former Microsoft employee accused of leaking Windows 8 code.
In a post on Microsoft’s blog, Brad Smith, general counsel and EVP at Microsoft acknowledged that the situation "raised legitimate questions about the privacy interests of our customers,” and “effective immediately” it would no longer inspect a customer’s private content, despite being legally allowed to carry out a search if it suspected someone of trafficking its intellectual or physical property.
Smith wrote: “In addition to changing company policy, in the coming months we will incorporate this change in our customer terms of service, so that it’s clear to consumers and binding on Microsoft.”
He added that it had been “uncomfortable” listening to the criticism over the past week but in the “post-Snowden era” people rightly focus on the ways others use their personal information.
Microsoft has since contacted private advocacy groups including the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to help identify “best practices from other industries and consider the best solutions for the future of digital services.”
Smith added that he hoped other companies would join is as well.