People concerned with online privacy had a field day last week when it was discovered that Microsoft accessed a French blogger’s Hotmail account and read his emails in order to assess his involvement with an alleged theft of Windows trade secrets. As numerous reports pointed out, Microsoft’s Hotmail and Outlook.com terms give the company the right to access and read users’ emails, and bloggers lashed out at Microsoft as a result. As it turns out, however, Microsoft isn’t the only tech giant that reserves the right to read your private correspondence.
Alex Hern at The Guardian took the time to actually read the terms we all agree to when we sign up for the various email services offered by big tech companies. Not surprisingly, he found that Apple, Google and Yahoo each include items in their terms of service that give them the right to access and read users’ emails.
As Hern noted, Google’s terms for Gmail require users to “acknowledge and agree that Google may access… your account information and any Content associated with that account… in a good faith belief that such access… is reasonably necessary to… protect against imminent harm to the… property… of Google.”
Similarly, regarding iCloud email Apple’s terms say that it “may, without liability to you, access… your Account information and Content… if we have a good faith belief that such access… is reasonably necessary to… protect the… property… of Apple,” Hern noted, adding that Yahoo mail can also be accessed by Yahoo according to the service’s terms.
Of course most people don’t actually read the terms of service when they sign up for various email solutions, so these things can be a bit of a shock when they come to light.