Microsoft is in full damage-control mode after it sparked a public backlash by snooping on the emails of a blogger.
The company said Friday that it will no longer go through the emails of users who are suspected of stealing physical or intellectual property from Microsoft. Instead, the company will refer the cases to law enforcement.
Microsoft is making the change to its company policy immediately and plans to update its customer terms of service.
Last week, Microsoft revealed in court filings that its investigators had accessed the private Hotmail account of an unnamed French blogger who allegedly received stolen Windows code from a Microsoft employee. The blogger was not accused of any wrongdoing, but the FBI used the evidence Microsoft pulled from the blogger's email account to bring charges against the employee who allegedly leaked the information.
Privacy activists were outraged that Microsoft had not gone through any formal legal process before reading a user's emails. The controversy was especially damaging because Microsoft has tried to attract new users by boasting about its privacy protections. The company has aired ads claiming Google "scroogles" its users by invading their privacy.