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Did Microsoft leave Hotmail open for Dictators?

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On Friday, March 25th, Jillian C. York, a writer for Al Jazeera English, claimed on her personal blog that a Syrian Hotmail could not turn on (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) on Hotmail and, “he was … blocked from turning on the ‘use HTTPS automatically’ setting.” Eva Galperin, a Electronic Frontier Foundation staffer followed up, and found that the “always-use-HTTPS option in Hotmail for users in more than a dozen countries, including Bahrain, Morocco, Algeria, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Congo, Myanmar, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, had been turned off.” This meant anyone using Hotmail in these countries could have their e-mail read by their government-controlled ISPs.

Since then, Microsoft, on one of its technical help sites, has denied that it had deliberately disabled HTTPS for some of its users. The statement reads: “We are aware of an issue that impacted some Hotmail users trying to enable HTTPs. That issue has now been resolved. Account security is a top priority for Hotmail and our support for HTTPS is worldwide – we do not intentionally limit support by region or geography and this issue was not restricted to any specific region of the world. We apologize for any inconvenience to our customers that this may have caused.”

Inconvenience? The wrong e-mail being read by the powers that be in some of these countries could lead to a one way trip to the closest firing squad.

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