Google, Yahoo, and Apple can read your emails without your permission — it isn’t just Microsoft

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Shortly after Microsoft admitted that it read through a journalist’s Hotmail email account without permission to track down a leak, the company scrambled to change its email policies and avoid even more public backlash. While some users were understandably upset, moving to a different email provider such as Apple, Google or Yahoo may not make much of a difference if a similar situation occurred in the future — those companies claim the same right to access your emails without your permission.

Microsoft’s privacy policy says they “may access or disclose information about you, including the content of your communications, in order to … protect the rights or property of Microsoft.” Yahoo’s on the other hand says that the company reserve the right to look through your email to “protect the rights, property, or personal safety of Yahoo, its users and the public.”

Google asks its 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”. And Apple says 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”.

Because these things are written in the terms and conditions — you know, the stuff most, if not all, people gloss over and accept when signing up for these services — these companies accessing your email without your permission is perfectly legal.

The good thing is, though, these companies certainly have the power to read your email if they deem it necessary but they likely will rarely ever have to or do so. And when they do, chances are most of us don’t have to worry about it either unless we are partaking in something elicit.

That, of course, doesn’t justify the fact violation of privacy we thought we had but it is somewhat of a silver lining. That said, however, if you’re truly set on having nobody else read your email but you… it is time to stop using email because, bud, that ain’t going to happen. Welcome to the 21st century.

[via The Guardian]

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4 comments

  1. GSystems

    [@Ashraf] The same terms can’t possibly apply to business accounts. I’ll research once the time comes, but, to me, with Comcast’s monopoly in my area, getting anything less than business class is just asking for issues. So, as businesses often maintain their own client-facing servers, I presume that there’s something akin to “allowance” for such servers. …at least I’m hoping as much…

    [@Louis] I presently use Thunderbird for retrieving my email from Google, Microsoft, etc. What you’re thinking about is the human-interaction client to the main server. As long as you’re not paying for your own domain, server, and storage, then you’re still saving your emails on someone else’s server. Now, something that’s interesting in your comment, is that you’re almost promoting returning to a POP3 sort of protocol. At this point though, with all of the technology, cloning capability, and simple girth of storage, I’m sure there would be a copy of your email stored somewhere on someone’s server…”for your protection…”

  2. Louis

    Interesting comment by GSystems, and equally good point by Mr Boss. We’re all looking for a way to safeguard our private messages, without giving up the convenience of using say Gmail .

    However, what about just returning to this :

    Using MS Outlook (Express) [not outlook.com], where your messages are stored on your own PC ( assuming you will back it up yourself regularly) ?

    That’s what I used to do a decade ago, before I was sucked into the convenience of Gmail etc.

    But thinking about it, it’s not that bad to run MS Outlook Express) again — there will be some sacrifices relating to labels etc, but I’m sure I’ll find good ways to manage that.

    Or does Microsoft also have some kind of access to your email messages stored on your local PC, whenever you’re online ?

    In that case, there’s alternatives like Thunderbird or Eudora, right? (if these indeed still exist — haven’t heard these words for a long time)

  3. GSystems

    …looks like I’ll have to get that old mail server back up and running. The legality that gives these companies the ability to look at your email, is that, realistically, you’re storing your communications on their equipment. Thus, you must play by their rules.

    No problem… There was a time when “geeks” had their own mail server at their home, where they received their email. Now, the technology is more than mature enough to implement on today’s computer equipment without blinking an eye. …and you get your own domain to play with…

    No better time than now…