Microsoft will tweak its policies for searching Hotmail accounts

Redmond has made a move to calm the storm which has erupted over its searching of a French blogger's Hotmail account – and is going to tighten up its policies concerning searching its Hotmail and Outlook.com accounts.

This all pertains to the story we reported on yesterday, where a disgruntled ex-Microsoft staff member, Alex Kibkalo, was charged with leaking pre-release Windows builds to said blogger.

In the investigation leading up to Kibkalo's arrest, Microsoft rifled through the blogger's Hotmail account where it found evidence of what had been sent over (yes, Kibkalo was pretty stupid to be sending leaked confidential material via a Redmond-owned email service).

Predictably, though, this has led to plenty of Hotmail users not being happy about hearing that Microsoft snooped through the blogger's account.

So Re/code reports that Microsoft has said it will "evolve" its policies pertaining to searching through non-employee email accounts. The firm noted that even though it could not get a court order to search itself, it should not carry out a search of an email account unless the case in question justified a court order.

In order to provide assurances going forward, Microsoft said: "To ensure we comply with the standards applicable to obtaining a court order, we will rely in the first instance on a legal team separate from the internal investigating team to assess the evidence."

"We will move forward only if that team concludes there is evidence of a crime that would be sufficient to justify a court order, if one were applicable. As an additional step, as we go forward, we will then submit this evidence to an outside attorney who is a former federal judge. We will conduct such a search only if this former judge similarly concludes that there is evidence sufficient for a court order."

Microsoft also noted that any material searched should strictly pertain to the case in question, too.

However, it didn't apologise for the action taken in the above case, and indeed said that this tweaked policy would not apply to internal investigations of Microsoft staff.