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9 February, 2007

Microsoft respects your privacy, even if you are a burglar

MicrosoftThere is the story, a 15-year-old boy allegedly stole an Xbox 360 video game console from a Wellington (New Zealand) home but neglected to take the device's power cord. That boy called Microsoft for another cord, providing Microsoft with Xbox 360's serial number. The owner of the Xbox 360 also had contacted Microsoft, giving them his product's serial number and asked them to look out for the stolen merchandise. Microsoft told the owner the alleged thief already had contacted the software giant but refused to identify him. New Zealand police was not happy.

Well done Microsoft!

Microsoft at end released the burglar's detail, after a court order. The 15-year-old burglar was charged with 18 counts of burglary.

News.com.au has the story: Microsoft protects burglar's details.

Microsoft protects burglar's details (Xavier LaCanna and Sam Holmes in New Zealand, 8 Feb 2007, News.com.au):

SOFTWARE giant Microsoft has been under the spotlight in New Zealand for refusing to promptly pass on to police information needed to crack a string of burglaries.

Microsoft cited privacy reasons, but the incident has raised questions about how the company's Australian business would handle requests for private information during criminal investigations.

New Zealand police had to get a court order to compel Microsoft to give the name and address of an alleged thief who called the software company after allegedly stealing an Xbox 360.

A 15-year-old boy allegedly stole an Xbox 360 video game console from a Wellington home on January 23 but neglected to take the device's power cord.

Wellington police said the boy allegedly called Microsoft to ask for another cord, quoting the stolen item's serial number.

"Microsoft got a call saying that a dog had chewed the cord and he needed another one," Detective Sergeant Martin Todd said.

"He didn't quite say he had forgotten to steal it."

The owner of the Xbox 360 also had contacted Microsoft, giving them his product's serial number and asked them to look out for the stolen merchandise.

Microsoft told the owner the alleged thief already had contacted the software giant but refused to identify him.

Det Sgt Todd said Microsoft passed on the boy's contact details to police after the court approved the search warrant.

He said while the owner of the Xbox was furious at Microsoft's initial decision to withhold the information, it was well within its rights to do so.

"From the police point of view, we deal with companies all the time and we certainly need grounds to get that information," he said.

"Other companies also require the privacy of their clients to be respected."

The information ultimately released by Microsoft may be the breakthrough police need to crack a string of burglaries.

A 15-year-old boy was charged on January 30 with 18 counts of burglary.

Microsoft New Zealand spokeswoman Carol Leishman said the company's privacy policies meant customers' personal information remained confidential unless it was needed in the administration of justice.

Microsoft's Australia stands by its trans-Tasman counterpart's handling of the affair.

"In circumstances involving customer information and a police investigation, Microsoft will work closely with the Australian police to ensure proper disclosure of customer information was made and adhere closely to our privacy policy and Australian privacy laws," Microsoft Australia spokeswoman Clair Deevy said.

Privacy advocate group Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) said Microsoft New Zealand's actions were appropriate.

"By them having to receive a warrant or a court order they can know that a court has looked into what the problem is and why the information is needed," EFA executive director Irene Graham said.

"Generally speaking, I think one can have more trust in the courts to make such decisions than you can in any ad-hoc individuals in companies."

Posted by Antony on 9 February 2007 11:26 AM | newstalk

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