In the light of the NSA’s snooping record that was revealed by on-the-run Eric Snowden, Americans have become more and more suspicious of the government – and international citizens have taken steps to ensure that their privacy is protected – even online. American companies Microsoft, Google, and Apple have pledged to ensure consumer privacy and to prevent the leaking of user data across the Web. At the same time, Microsoft has had some explaining to do.
Microsoft’s new privacy rules are a direct result of the company’s attempts to find out the source of a Windows 8 leak. At the time, employee Alex Kibkalo was responsible for the leaked information about Windows 8 software code reaching the eyes of a French blogger. He was arrested in March, and, under normal circumstances, such an arrest wouldn’t make national headlines.
Kibkalo’s circumstances are somewhat different than most employees that get on the “outs” with their tech companies: in his case, Microsoft sifted through the emails and documents of the French blogger in order to detect the source of the leaked information – and then discovered that it was Kibkalo. Microsoft says that it regrets its actions, despite the fact that it doesn’t need a warrant to search the emails of its own customers. At the same time, there was an issue with Microsoft’s violation of customer privacy – and privacy advocates find the company violation to be more than an issue of subjective preference. They view it more as an “improper search and seizure.” What grounds did Microsoft have to do this?
The company didn’t have any grounds, except to say that it wanted to track down the information leakster. Since then, Microsoft’s gone on record as saying that it won’t investigate emails 1) without user consent, and 2) without proper cause to search. In the case of Kibkalo’s French contact, Microsoft had no reason to suspect the French blogger and no evidence linking the French blogger (and Kibkalo) to the Windows 8 software code.
While Microsoft may have harmed its credibility in the eyes of privacy advocates (all while advertising “Don’t Be Scroogled” against rival tech company Google, Inc.), Kibkalo’s sentence doesn’t change. He leaked company secrets, and, regardless of how his identity came to light, is still considered in violation of his agreement with Microsoft. As of today, Alex Kibkalo has been sentenced to three months in prison and fined $100. After serving his three-month sentence, Kibkalo will be deported back to Russia, his home country.
Microsoft isn’t the only one cracking down on employee leaksters; smartphone and tablet giant Apple, Inc. has currently employed a Chinese investigation group to detect the source(s) of iPhone leaks and put a stop to it. It’s been a growing trend, but Apple fans and customers have been getting detailed pictures and leaked information for the last few years with regard to Apple announcements. Some tech analysts have stated on the record that the “ridiculous” number of iPhone and iOS leaks have woefully undermined any surprise element Apple looks to bring to its future announcements. While being a leakster who “tips” the public may be a fun adventure, there’re certain consequences you face when you happen to be an employee at one of these tech companies.