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Microsoft Opts-In Hotmail Users 704

medeii writes "East Side Journal reports that without telling anyone, Microsoft has suddenly changed the privacy preferences for all Hotmail users. They're now sharing your name and other personal information with third parties, even if you said you didn't want that when you signed up. (If you're a user, login, go to Options > Personal Profile, and un-check the boxes at the bottom of that page.)" The same reporter has written a follow-up article today.
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Microsoft Opts-In Hotmail Users

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  • by wrinkledshirt ( 228541 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @10:38PM (#3534289) Homepage
    I'll do you one better.

    Mozilla users can't access Options->Personal Profile to opt out.
  • Browser Not Supported

    Microsoft® .NET Passport no longer supports the Web browser version you are using. Please upgrade to a current Web browser, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer version 4.0 or later, or Netscape Navigator version 4.08 or later.

    Great, now MS 0wnz m3 and my little browser, too.
  • by 3seas ( 184403 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @10:44PM (#3534341) Homepage Journal
    So now you don't even have to tell every company and their brothers company that you do business with that you want your privacy, but you have to do it monthly???

    Shouldn't privacy be a default thing to respect? Why should I have to constantly defend it?

    Can I charge for infringment of my privacy? (like charging for spam?)

    "To request your privacy options, tell us your life history. We want to make sure it's you, before we consider granting you temporary privacy."

    If you do not allow us to use up bandwidth sending you stuff you do not want then you should pay us for lost revenues.
  • by zaffir ( 546764 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @10:45PM (#3534351)
    Neither can Opera users who identify themselves as either Opera or Mozilla. Switch the identifier to IE 5.0, however, and the personal profile page suddenly works perfectly. Way to go, MS.
  • New TOS? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by scott1853 ( 194884 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @10:48PM (#3534365)
    I went to disable that option and found out my account had been disabled since I didn't log in in 30 days. I click the "reactivate link" thinking I should reactivate and then uncheck that option, but upon reactivating I had to accept the terms of service again. You think you've seen some long ones before? Basically they're saying by accepting one, I'm accepting them all. Is it legal to agree to one document that links to terms in another document?

    The following is quoted from their TOS:

    The MSN Web Sites are offered to you conditioned on your acceptance without modification of the terms, conditions, and notices contained herein. Your use of the MSN Web Sites constitutes your agreement to all such terms, conditions, and notices. Your use of a particular MSN Web Site included within the MSN Web Sites may also be subject to additional terms outlined elsewhere in this agreement (the "Additional Terms"). To go directly to any of the Additional Terms, click on the link below:



    MSN Health

    MSN Money


    MSN Hotmail

    Encarta Online

    MSN Mobile

    MSN Music

    MSN Shopping (eShop)



    MSN Photos

    Additionally, the MSN Web Sites may themselves contain additional terms, codes of conduct or guidelines that govern use of those sites, including without limitation, particular features or offers (for example, sweepstakes or chat areas).
  • by nolife ( 233813 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @10:51PM (#3534390) Homepage Journal
    As with most issues of this nature..
    If the story hits big, and big media starts questioning the practice, MS will claim that it was a programing error, it was changed but they actually have no plans to really share that data, or it was strictly an "accident" in preparing for some upcoming vapor feature they planned on adding or testing. Sorry..

    If it doesnt hit big the plan will stay put and 99.9% of the users will never know.
    Another reason I always use completely bogus information for these registration things.
  • Re:Surprise! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by erc ( 38443 ) <> on Thursday May 16, 2002 @10:52PM (#3534395) Homepage
    What's it going to take? Anyone for a class-action lawsuit against both Yahoo and Microsoft?
  • by doubtless ( 267357 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @10:54PM (#3534421) Homepage
    Microsoft® .NET Passport no longer supports the Web browser version you are using. Please upgrade to a current Web browser, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer version 4.0 or later, or Netscape Navigator version 4.08 or later.

    Netscape navigator 4.08 or later is supported, but not my Mozilla 0.99? a step backward? or basically just not going to be friendly towards open source?

    this sucks.
  • interesting process (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 16, 2002 @10:56PM (#3534426)
    • went to options -> personal preferences
    • Forced to log in again
    • Unchecked flags
    • tried to set birthdate to 1888, unsuccessful
    • set birthdate to 2000, successful
    • went to check mail and forced to log in again (yes, all of these times I had "keep me signed in" checked)
    • Had to click button to say my parent was with me.
    • Supposed to log in as parent to give them my credit card number a la porn sites (or so I've heard)
    • logged in the same account for my parent.
    • asked if my parent was with me
    • supposed to log in as parent to give them my credit card.
    • Lather, rinse, repeat.

    Well, I don't know how this is supposed to help children (since they can lie about their age) but it certainly has prevented me from abusing my account. I'm so happy there weren't any warnings or anything saying "we're going to fuck you if you play with us."
  • Re:Notice (Score:2, Interesting)

    by HalB ( 127906 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @10:59PM (#3534458)
    That works great if it is just an email service. However, if you are using a say, telecom service (you get a T1 or DSL to your house) you have to give your phone number and address, or they will install it at the wrong place. 8') Next, Verizon posts your personal HOME address and telephone number in the WHOIS database for any spambot to pick out (rather than use the P.O. Box you gave for your billing address).
    Sometimes you have to give out your address. Or maybe you called a toll free number - guess what, your phone number is in the database.
    In the case of a monopoly like Verizon, you're stuck. But there are other cases where you have a choice.
  • by Cowculator ( 513725 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @11:13PM (#3534530) Homepage

    I just stopped checking my old Hotmail address regularly within the past month, then at all this week, because I was sick of all the spam I had to keep deleting (a quick login showed 87 in the last 4 days, and that's without having given out this address to anyone in years) and because my school address was in general much more reliable. I also got mine before M$ bought the company, and I distinctly remember them promising when they bought it that they would always keep Hotmail a free service.

    Now, I'm not saying Hotmail isn't free anymore, because I've never paid a cent for it. But here's what they've done to allow that:

    • Spam its users regularly about how they can get better service for $19.95.
    • Replace the old policy of warning you when your account was full and eventually deleting older messages with a new policy of freezing all incoming and outgoing mail without notification as soon as you hit 2 MB if you don't pay.
    • Give away users' email addresses to virtually anyone who asks for them.

    Given these steps, which have occurred at fairly regular intervals, does it surprise you at all that they've progressed on to this? I can only imagine that next they'll replace those check boxes with bulleted lists, so that you can't opt out unless you become a paid subscriber... My advice to you is to change your name and address info immediately to something fake, clear out your Hotmail address book (because they're probably selling that too), and then to switch to a more reliable email provider. There are plenty of services that actively guard you against spam, so it shouldn't be too hard to find one you like.

  • Re:Surprise! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MrHanky ( 141717 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @11:17PM (#3534545) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, and this could explain why certain words are impossible to block in Hotmail -- like "debt". There's one single company I've tried to block in any way, but it's just not possible.
  • by Mongoose ( 8480 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @11:31PM (#3534614) Homepage
    Everyone sign up for a dozen hotmail accounts and effectively posion they're market data. If companies find out 50% of the email addresses on are false then they'll pay MS less money to host _more_ addresses.

    I hate to be the one to call for this, however it's just as legal as what they're doing. It's no the moral thing to do but it is legal. It's time to do something all you little /. trolls.
  • by fiver-hoo ( 12326 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @11:31PM (#3534616)
    I have on old hotmail account that gets 100+ pieces of spam a day, and I no longer recieve any personal email to that account. What I've done, is I use Gotmail [] to download all the email, then pipe it to Razor []. I do this every day from a cron job. If every slashdot user set up a hotmail account with a phony name, and ALLOWED the spam to come by not changing thier preferences, this would be a pretty good way to keep Razor, or whatever other spam reporting service you are using current.

    I say bring em' on! I'm happy to waste MS's bandwith, and glad to help keep the spam databases current, so those of us running Spamassassin [] can keep our real email accounts clean.
  • by thomis ( 136073 ) <> on Thursday May 16, 2002 @11:34PM (#3534645) Homepage Journal
    ...That's the value of the button on the Browser Limitations page when I log in... My browser reports the user agent as Space Bison. I'm actually using IE 6, but my proxy [proxomitron []] reports whatever I want, though that's the default. I had no problem updating my |options|personal profile. If the page is actually detecting my browser by sniffing DOM objects and specially allowing me, I'd be surprised, but if you MOZ/Konq/Opera users are actually blocked from updating that would really suck. The whole trick sucks, but M$ isn't the first (yahoo betrayed me some time ago). My demographic info is probably all over the place, but in both cases they've only managed to poison their databases. All the info I gave them was spoofed, except for the hotmail address, which I mainly use as a spam-sink anyway.
    So, I guess that's my moral to the story... don't just use these services... USE them. Everyone that asks for your demographic info is giving you the opportunity to make ALL of that database less valid and less useful. This really is an opportunity.

  • by Le Marteau ( 206396 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @11:37PM (#3534659) Journal
    I moved not long ago and never changed my profile. But my profile now shows my new state and zip! My GF's Hotmail account profile was changed likewise, and she never changed her profile, too!
  • by ergo98 ( 9391 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @11:41PM (#3534686) Homepage Journal
    I had to change my Opera identity to get it to let me in. Looks like one of those ad hoc "version check" things that makes presumptions about the capabilities of your browser.

    Having said this, this has more to do with Microsoft Passport than Microsoft. I've actually been evaluating Passport as an optional authentication method on a current project, and one of the features that it offers is that upon authentication partners can get the basic user information (such as what they state on their site when you look at what "other registration info lists") for the purpose of making it easier for the user to complete orders, etc. It's unfortunate that they hijacked Hotmail to begin this, and the preference should start and not (perhaps even terminating your account if you refuse to allow it, but certainly not automatically doing it), however that's the whole purpose of Passport : To give users one username and password, and to allow them an easier experience on the net. You can see the details at iew.asp []. The same sort of idea is going to hold true with the Liberty Alliance system as well.
  • by donutello ( 88309 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @11:45PM (#3534717) Homepage
    Obvious bulk mail goes into my junk folder. Nice, except that my junk folder contributes to my total space used and isn't purged automagically if more space is needed. There isn't even an option to do this. (Sigh, I need more space again. Maybe they'll send me another advert so I can sign up..)

    Go to Options --> Junk mail deletion and you can choose to send it to /dev/null without it ever counting against your quota.

    But seriously, I don't see why anyone should need more than 2Mb of space in a free email account. I use free email accounts only when I don't trust the person I'm giving the address to to not spam me (but when I need to give an email address to get a confirmation code, etc.)

    My hotmail account has almost never been over 1Mb. If you're using it to store important email, you should either look into downloading your email using a POP3 client or seriously consider getting a real email provider.

  • Speculation (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Chris Johnson ( 580 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @12:08AM (#3534830) Homepage Journal
    This is totally opposed to their DESIRE to pursue 'trustworthy computing' and bail out their tarnished image.

    Those things are, however, long-term goals.

    This action means a SHORT-term cash influx.

    What I'm wondering is: could it be that Microsoft is having difficulty making payroll? X-Box is flopping, and what is the last major product release they've had? PC sales are not stellar either.

    I realise the received wisdom is that they've got more money than God, but take just a moment to consider who that information is coming from: Microsoft itself, the same people who also say 'we'll be forced to make several million different versions of Windows', and 'this video will demonstrate to the Court that...'

    Why do we suddenly believe them when they also say, 'Oh, and we have forty billion dollars. Isn't that cool?'?

    Enron looked like a hell of a deal- until reality set in. How many billions of dollars did THEY say THEY had? And I don't think there's any evidence that Enron was LESS truthful than Microsoft.

    Wouldn't it be interesting if Microsoft was secretly bankrupt?

  • by Mnemia ( 218659 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @12:40AM (#3534948)
    I scrapped Hotmail a long time ago, the second that MS took over. Are there ANY decent webmail sites left out there anymore that don't charge for basic services like automatic forwarding? I'm just not going to pay for a webmail account that I only use as a disposable intermediary between all the info-greedy sites out there and my real account...
  • by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @01:49AM (#3535229)
    They allow reacquisition of expired accounts because they know people are scared of someone getting an account with their old email address. Your email is up for grabs if you don't log in once a month. It's how they keep you logging in.
  • by gregfortune ( 313889 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @02:20AM (#3535338)
    Nope, I just get a kick out of all of the offers for free porn and huge home mortgages on my apartment ;o)
  • The german consumer organization "Stifung Warentest" made a comparative test between a lot of free e-mail services. Two of them failed, one of these were Hotmail. It was actually a very good test that tested both availability, usability, licenses etc. Hotmail failed on their license agreement and security issues.

    One competitor that got a good mark was Yahoo mail.

  • by Get Behind the Mule ( 61986 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @02:48AM (#3535426)
    Viruses, security holes and general indifference about computer security; price-gouging licensing schemes; BSA audits; FUD about open source software; and now a breach of the privacy of Hotmail users (not to mention increasingly poor service for Hotmail). And then there's the antitrust trial, with revelations of threats and retaliation against OEM's, ISP's and software vendors; arrogant definace of the DOJ and the courts; no willingness to compomise, no insight or remorse; fabricated evidence in the courtroom; and Bill Gates on his deposition video in a seething rage, rocking back and forth in his chair, playing ignorant and obstinate, claiming not to understand simple words and not to remember crucial business decisions, only to be squarely contradicted by his own email.

    When the Church of $cientology began a few years ago to confront their critics on the Internet, some of the critics began to refer to their campaign as Operation Footbullet, because the Co$ simply blundered again and again in highly public fashion. Their corruption and outright craziness became more obvious than ever before to anyone who cared to look.

    Has the Micro$oft Corporation been conducting its own Operation Footbullet? Up until about two or three years ago, much of this was ignored by the media and there was almost no awareness of their excesses in the general public. And of course many people still don't pay much attention to the software industry. But anyone who pays the least bit of attention is faced with a constant stream of reports about ruthlessness and frankly criminal behavior, a profound lack of respect for consumers and business partners, and a general stench of unethical behavior that can only be overpowered by Enron's awful stink. I suppose Enron is ahead of M$ on the scales of immorality, but nevertheless, M$ is risking going down in history as one of the greediest and most ruthless plutocrats since the the robber barons of the railroad and Standard Oil days -- and those are the ones who've held the record for over a hundred years!

    Of course, some people will respond that I'm exaggerating. I'll probably even get modded as Flamebait or Troll. And indeed, it really is hard to state the case against Micro$oft without sounding like a zealot, because the accusations are simply so hair-raising, it's hard for the uninitiated to believe that they're all true (this is, in fact, what I used to think about the Church of $cientology). Judge Jackson should not have shot his mouth off the way he did, but who could blame the man, he probably just couldn't help himself. The awful fact is that M$ is one of the most appalling corporate gangsters in all of history.
  • by soloport ( 312487 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @03:05AM (#3535464) Homepage
    Ok. That was fun!

    I got all panicky and changed my preferences. Then I figured, if they're (obviously) not going to protect my privacy, why give away personal information?

    So, thinking my birth-year information matters (it does to me) I put a bogus "1999" in the appropriate place. What resulted was an endless loop of the silly system asking "Is your parent there with you? [Yes] [No]" in a Microsoft .NET "Kids" page!

    When I clicked "Yes", it asked for Passport login info. (I only have one Passport account). When I clicked "No" it asked for my name and my parents e-mail address. In other words, I'm now LOCKED out of an account I've had for four years!

    Now what e-mail address am I going to use to register with at spam-bombers, like or or Or what about when bots no longer find my address at InterNIC? Will I miss all that spam?

    (Yes, I got blocked the first attempt, too, using Konqueror; Switched to NS 4.78 :-(

  • by jnana ( 519059 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @03:21AM (#3535507) Journal
    Using a free service doesn't mean that you have no rights. The price of the service and the rights you do or don't have are totally independent.

    What amounts to you having no rights, though, is that you probably clicked through an agreement in order to activate the account that said microsoft is free to change the terms and conditions of the account at any time, without notice. It's fucked up, and totally unethical, but borderline legal -- what else would you expect from Microsoft?

  • by Otis_INF ( 130595 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @03:27AM (#3535519) Homepage
    Let me get this straight:
    - It's totally free
    - They provide a huge pile of hardware, software and people to keep up the site and datastores.
    - They don't want money in return
    - Everything but the sun costs money

    So you people think that MS is a philantropic organisation? ALWAYS ask yourself when something is 'free' and the provider of the service has to spent a lot of money to give you this service for 'free': "Where's the catch?". I find this moaning about Hotmail rather silly, if you ask me. If you don't like it, get a real ISP account. Yes that costs money, start wondering where that money's for.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 17, 2002 @05:43AM (#3535830)
    Weirdness. Mozilla RC2 works fine for me (granted, with this UA: Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; N; PPC; en)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 17, 2002 @06:01AM (#3535867)
    I'll do you even one more better.

    I just turned those options off, then signed out. I logged back in to see if they had taken effect and found that -every- time you go into options, those boxes are automatically checked.

    So beware, any time you change/view your options you need to uncheck the boxes again...
  • by Shirotae ( 44882 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @06:18AM (#3535895)

    I was just logging out after turning off those options that had magically been turned on when I noticed this URL go by in the address bar mains.asp

    fortunately, the system was being so slow that I had time to capture it. It looks as if the protections we are supposed to have about cookies not being sent to different domains mean nothing to Microsoft. No surprise there then.

  • Is this even legal? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @07:23AM (#3536016)

    Sorry to ask the obvious question, but since IANAL, I'd be interested to know. If you have explicitly said you don't want a company to reveal your private details, can they legally change your mind for you? I realise that blanket statements about changing Ts&Cs without notice might apply to services like Hotmail, but that doesn't necessarily make them legal either. I would have expected this to fall foul of data protection legislation, at least in most European countries.

  • by Dr Caleb ( 121505 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @10:59AM (#3537062) Homepage Journal
    I noticed some postings above where some people had checked their default settings and found them "unchecked" by default. One of those people had a address.

    I wonder if they also responded truthfully to their country of origin, and MS simply didn't opt them in for this reason...

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