March 21, 2014
In this Thursday, Aug. 23,
2012, file photo,
a new Microsoft Corp. logo,
is seen on an exterior wall
of a new Microsoft store
inside the Prudential Center
mall, in Boston.
Microsoft is updating its
Windows software for cellphones
to accommodate larger devices
and make it easier for motorists
to reduce distractions while
(AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP)
Microsoft Corp., which has skewered rival Google
Inc. for going through customer emails to deliver ads, acknowledged Thursday
it had searched emails in a blogger's Hotmail account to track down who was
leaking company secrets.
John Frank, deputy general counsel for Microsoft, which owns Hotmail,
said in a statement Thursday that the software company,
"took extraordinary actions in this case."
In the future, he said, Microsoft would consult
an outside attorney who is a former judge to determine if a court order
would have allowed such a search.
The case involves former employee
Alex Kibkalo, a Russian native who
worked for Microsoft as a software architect in Lebanon.
According to an FBI complaint alleging theft of trade secrets, Microsoft
found Kibkalo in September 2012 after examining the Hotmail account of the
blogger with whom Kibkalo allegedly shared proprietary Microsoft code.
The complaint filed Monday in federal court in
Seattle did not identify the blogger.
"After confirmation that the data was
Microsoft's proprietary trade secret, on September 7, 2012, Microsoft's
Office of Legal Compliance (OLC) approved content pulls of the blogger's
Hotmail account," says the complaint by FBI agent Armando Ramirez.
The search of the email account occurred months
before Microsoft provided Ramirez with the results of its internal
investigation in July 2013.
The email search uncovered messages from Kibkalo to the blogger containing
fixes for the Windows 8 RT operating system before they were released
publicly. The complaint alleges Kibkalo also shared a software development
kit that could be used by hackers to understand more about how Microsoft
uses product keys to activate software.
Besides the email search, Microsoft also combed through instant messages the
two exchanged that September. Microsoft also examined files in Kibkalo's
cloud storage account, which until last month was called SkyDrive. Kibkalo
is accused of using SkyDrive to share files with the blogger.
Kibkalo has since relocated to Russia, the FBI complaint says.
Frank said in his statement that no court order was needed to conduct the
"Courts do not issue orders authorizing
someone to search themselves," he said. "Even when we have probable
cause, it's not feasible to ask a court to order us to search
Hotmail's terms of service includes a section
"We may access or disclose information about
you, including the content of your communications, in order to...
protect the rights or property of Microsoft or our customers."
Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft has taken a
defiant stand against intrusions of customer privacy, in the wake of
National Security Agency systems analyst
revelations of government snooping into online activities.
General counsel Brad Smith said in a blog post in December that
Microsoft was "especially alarmed" at news reports of widespread government
Microsoft also has a long-running negative ad campaign called "Scroogled,"
in which it slams
Google for scanning,
"every word in every email" to sell ads,
saying that "Google crosses the line."