After pleading guilty, former Microsoft employee Alex Kibkalo will pay a $100 fine and serve three months in prison for stealing trade secrets.
His case picked up wide notice not due to the nature of the crime — trade leaks happen every day — but instead in terms of how he was caught. Kibkalo leaked code to a French blogger, and Microsoft took a look into that account for evidence regarding the source of the leak.
The company was within its legal rights to do so, given that it has the right to examine data on its own servers. However, when it became known that the company had done so to pursue its legal ends, and had peeked through the missives of someone involved with publishing — no matter how loosely you define the niche — there was blowback.
And fairly so, in my view. Microsoft had been critical of Google reading email algorithmically to serve better ads — Google has curtailed that practice for a subset of its users in response to a lawsuit — and here was the Redmond-based software company doing it by hand.
To its credit, Microsoft quickly instituted a new review policy that would see an external third-party oversee data retrieval. The company then took another step, promising a greater turn towards law enforcement and other official channels to handle similar cases. It was a quick turnaround by the company.
Today we end the odd saga with a short sentence and a minute fine. But, the larger outcome of the episode is that we erected another fence of privacy between others and your personal data.
Microsoft declined to comment for this article.