Apple, Yahoo and Google also claim the right to read users’ emails

Madeleine Swain
24 March, 2014
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Last month, this site ran an article reporting how reluctant Apple is to share your information with third parties and how disgruntled media buyers are about this state of affairs (Apple, the Beauty with a Bag on Her Head), but now the UK’s Guardian has published a report that reveals those noble privacy considerations perhaps only stretch so far.

The report explains how along with Yahoo and Google, Apple’s fine print claims the right to read users’ emails.

The Guardian’s investigation was sparked by an earlier story about Microsoft admitting to reading a journalist’s Hotmail account in an effort to track down the source of an internal leak. That led to the arrest of former Microsoft employee Alex Kibkalo, who was accused of leaking Windows 8 to a blogger on a tech site.

“The engineer was caught after the blogger emailed Microsoft to confirm the authenticity of the leaked Windows 8 code. Investigators at the firm then reportedly looked through the blogger’s hotmail account and instant messenger chats to identify the source of the leak, and found an email from Kibaklo,” wrote The Guardian last Thursday.

The company’s terms of service allow for such access ”when Microsoft forms a good faith belief that doing so is necessary [to] protect the… property of Microsoft”.

And it appears Microsoft is not alone. Other major email providers have similar clauses in their terms of service.

Apple’s says, “You acknowledge and agree that Apple may, without liability to you, access, use, preserve and/or disclose your Account information and Content to law enforcement authorities, government officials, and/or a third party, as Apple believes is reasonably necessary or appropriate, if legally required to do so or if we have a good faith belief that such access, use, disclosure, or preservation is reasonably necessary to: (a) comply with legal process or request; (b) enforce this Agreement, including investigation of any potential violation thereof; (c) detect, prevent or otherwise address security, fraud or technical issues; or (d) protect the rights, property or safety of Apple, its users, a third party, or the public as required or permitted by law.”

As noted by MacRumors, Apple has a long established reputation for protecting its privacy, especially around the issue of possible new products. “According to Apple CEO Steve Jobs, product secrecy is one of the specific tenets that has been responsible for Apple’s success, and in 2012, Tim Cook said the company would “double down on secrecy on products”,” reports the site.

Even so, clearly leaks happen – details of the two most recent iPhones, the 5s and 5c, were widely spread around the internet before their release last September. So it should perhaps surprise no one that the company will insist on retaining rights to investigate future possible leaks and if that means by reading its users’ email, then that’s what it will do.

Apple, like Google, didn’t respond to The Guardian‘s request for comment on the story, while Yahoo simply declined.

The response to the revelations on forums at sites like MacRumors range from ‘what did you expect?’ and ‘this is hardly news’ to ‘how is that even legal?’

Reactions stretch from the blasé…

to the outraged…

to the portentous…

Would it concern you to learn that Apple had been accessing your iCloud emails or did you read the fine print when you signed up for the service? Have your say in the comments below.



One Comment

One person was compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. Jamie says:

    I guess it all comes down to the fact that if you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to worry about.

    But it still concerns me that my emails can be looked at by anyone other than me, but what other alternatives are there. I think you’ll find that the vast majority (if not all) mail hosts and ISPs have similar clauses in their agreements as in many cases this lack of privacy is mandated by local laws.

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