Another SkyDrive account gets blocked, raising privacy concerns

Just when we thought all of the SkyDrive privacy hubbub had died down, a user on the Chinese tech site (and yes - it is in Chinese) is reporting that Microsoft has blocked his account in an incident that sounds a lot like the one we reported on back in July

Basically, a user going by the name of qinmoon, a member of a website called PC Beta, shared a message from Microsoft stating that his account had been blocked over a breach of Microsoft's code of conduct, although they refused to share any specific details with him. Now, that all sounds pretty standard, but qinmoon says that the only thing stored on his SkyDrive besides his school notes were some manga-style images and wallpapers which happened to feature several incredibly cute and scantily clad women.

Microsoft gave him 48 hours to appeal the closure of the account before his data was deleted, but when he tried to do that (and just for Microsoft's sake, it's worth noting that he didn't supply the appeal he sent them, only their response), he was turned down and apparently lost all of his data, including some very important class materials. Ouch.

So let this be a lesson to you, dear Neowin readers: don't upload anything remotely steamy to your SkyDrive. Even if it's just a harmless drawing, it could well get you in trouble, even if it is set to private. Microsoft apparently does a pretty thorough job of screening everything that goes into their servers (if you're interested in finding out more about how all of this happens, check out this statement they sent us a couple of months ago), and they're not afraid of being overly cautious. And considering the errors being made by some of Microsoft's other automatic enforcement programs, we can't help but wonder how accurate their SkyDrive policing is.

And really, why shouldn't they be? We're pretty sure that they don't want SkyDrive to become the next MegaUpload, and with over-zealous restrictions hanging over their head, privacy takes a backseat. Unfortunately, with SkyDrive, and cloud storage in general, becoming more integral to computing by the day, it's a worrying trend.

Source: PC Beta | Image via PC Beta
Thanks to Neowin member FaiKee for the tip

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Free service... play by there rules or go somewhere else... simple.

I personally applaud Microsoft for taking a stand against perversion on the Internet.

Good for Microsoft to have the morality to stop porn/suggestive images and content. It's great that a company has taken a stand against this smut. If you want to keep your porn private, go somewhere else.

Skydrive is for work, school, projects, personal photos and movies (family, friends, travel), synced settings, etc.

Skydrive is not for basically anything that you've downloaded from the internet or ripped from a disc.

There are many services out there to use to backup all or specific types of data, free and for fee. If you're using Skydrive for something it wasn't intended for you might get burned.

thomastmc said,
Skydrive is for work, school, projects, personal photos and movies (family, friends, travel), synced settings, etc.

Skydrive is not for basically anything that you've downloaded from the internet or ripped from a disc.

There are many services out there to use to backup all or specific types of data, free and for fee. If you're using Skydrive for something it wasn't intended for you might get burned.

This. But I still think that private really should be private.

I don't really use my skydrive account. I use a dropbox account which, at the moment, has more capacity than any of the others except box.net.

shinji257 said,
I don't really use my skydrive account. I use a dropbox account which, at the moment, has more capacity than any of the others except box.net.

SkyDrive at least has better prices

I mean, I'll be honest, I'm a heavy SkyDrive users, although this does definitely make me think twice about what I put on there. But as it is, I'm pretty confident that I don't have anything I wouldn't be comfortable with sharing, so I don't worry about it. I'll still keep speaking up for privacy's sake, though.

THis is annoying, I hope MS in AUS don't have these kind of guide lines as I have a lot of wallpapers stored on my skydrive as a 2nd storage account...

I would be destroyed if they deleted my MS account (With Xbox and Windows phone all linked up to it

sounds like Skydrive wants to act like Oron. see how well that turned out for Oron. still down. and no fans to support them either.

What if I use skydrive app on my pc and all files are in the dropbox folder. If I get my account blocked, will the files remain in that folder?

cloud computing is killing Microsoft.Why do you think they developed windows 8? for tablets right? those are thin clients trying to shove their way into the cloud computing arena.

The only thing you can be 100% sure of is that this guy isn't going to tell the full story. He feels screwed over, so even if he's in the right, he's STILL going to spin his tale to make him sound extra-super-victim-y.

While everybody is very eager to jump on the angry pitchforks and torches privacy bandwagon, remember the easily observable *throughout your entire life* fact that people will always fib up a story to make themselves look better than they actually are.

The fact that he's leaving out obvious details at all is a big ol' warning flag. Just be cautious what kind of person you may accidentally align yourselves with.

To be honest we do not know what the content was or if this guy is being honest, we know very little right now. If this was simply Manga and was human reviewed and appealed and he lost - something smells fishy to me.

wow this is horrible form MSFT. they should encrypt user's data with a user's own key which isn't accessible to MSFT and not sniff it. I guess everything in skydrive will have to be pre-encrypt it to prevent MSFT from sniffing it.

roadwarrior said,

Hell, no need for that even. A RAR file with a decent password would do the job.

True, but TrueCrypt is some really nice software, and I'd much rather use that option if I'm going to want my stuff secure.

I honestly didn't even consider using it for online storage, but I think I will now. Thanks, Ad Man Gamer.

tbh i dont mind them using their scanning software, no-one is actually looking at my stuff, its software looking for CP and other things that are in breach of the T&Cs.

When you use their site you are agreeing to the T&Cs so if you dont agree with them dont use them, simples!!!!

Dont like them searching for CP? go to a different site, but im pretty sure every other major cloud storage company has similar scanning software. And if you really have something to hide you wouldnt put it on a commercial cloud site you'd put it on a disc or something you could actually hide!

The cloud is useful for off-site storage. I don't believe its something to be considered for anything other than a backup of personal photos, videos and other files which are important to you but not highly private. The only time I will call upon the cloud is when my hard drive, Backup drive and backup DVDs have all failed and I need to claw back the basics.

I am not sure what Microsoft's policies are but the agreement you agree to for SkyDrive probably states what they consider their right and what you do not have for rights. When you agree you are subject to their rules. Free services tend to give you little rights verse paid services. Either way I would not trust data that is critical or that I care about to be stored in the cloud. The cloud is just like local storage. It is susceptible to failure and loss. Saving data in both the cloud and locally will minimize the odds of loosing your data.

Do I think Microsoft is right in what they did? I don't agree but we do not have enough information. Microsoft flagged the files but were the files analyzed by humans or software. Maybe the files were analyzed by software and when he appealed Microsoft would not have humans analyze the files so they denied his appeal. In that scenario Microsoft did not invade his privacy. They relied on software. Like I said. We do not have enough information.

BillyJack said,
...

Exactly this.
I would assume the scanner attaches weighted score to each offending piece of content found.
Appeal requests above a certain weight get ignored.

I use Microsoft applications all the time. Every single day. (yes, including SkyDrive)

This is a huge problem. I DO NOT want MS reading (or even scanning!) my private data. Not under any circumstances. This is a matter of principle.

I think this will really slow cloud adoption among the general public. Everyone has SOMEthing to hide, whether it's off-color humor, political preference, religion, sexual desires, or any other private, personal feeling. Everyone.

What's next? Scanning for people with beards because they're all Taliban? Or will the ban baby pictures? Will they start scanning for banned words like the Chinese government? Which words will be banned? Who will decide?

I like Microsoft, but I want no part of this.

Slippery slope I say. Tread with care.

Hambone72 said,
I use Microsoft applications all the time. Every single day. (yes, including SkyDrive)

This is a huge problem. I DO NOT want MS reading (or even scanning!) my private data. Not under any circumstances. This is a matter of principle.

I think this will really slow cloud adoption among the general public. Everyone has SOMEthing to hide, whether it's off-color humor, political preference, religion, sexual desires, or any other private, personal feeling. Everyone.

What's next? Scanning for people with beards because they're all Taliban? Or will the ban baby pictures? Will they start scanning for banned words like the Chinese government? Which words will be banned? Who will decide?

I like Microsoft, but I want no part of this.

Slippery slope I say. Tread with care.

Then it's best kept offline. The thing with SkyDrive is you're uploading to very public servers. If there's illegal activity going on, they have the right to look and see.

Dot Matrix said,

Then it's best kept offline. The thing with SkyDrive is you're uploading to very public servers. If there's illegal activity going on, they have the right to look and see.

There is an option to upload to a public or private server. Unless they have a real reason to suspect illegal activity, a private folder should stay private, just like something stored on my hard drive.

THolman said,

There is an option to upload to a public or private server. Unless they have a real reason to suspect illegal activity, a private folder should stay private, just like something stored on my hard drive.


I respectfully disagree.
Expect all free services come with some sort of controls that you must agree to during enrollment.
If you want to ensure that your content is secure even from those hosting your data there are paid solutions for that. They usually fall into the 'online backup' category.

Dot Matrix said,

Then it's best kept offline. The thing with SkyDrive is you're uploading to very public servers. If there's illegal activity going on, they have the right to look and see.

I'm not sure where you're from, but in the US they absolutely do NOT have the right to look and see when there's illegal activity going on. This is well established.

Obviously, with these setups, there is some sort of agreement in place that precludes that anyway. My argument is not about legality, it's about PRIVACY. I think there are a lot of people who just feel 'weird' about MS sifting through all their files looking for 'bad stuff'.

What happens when it changes from banning nudity, to banning any discussion of non-Christian religions? Slippery slope.

deadonthefloor said,

I respectfully disagree.
Expect all free services come with some sort of controls that you must agree to during enrollment.
If you want to ensure that your content is secure even from those hosting your data there are paid solutions for that. They usually fall into the 'online backup' category.

Then it should be explicitly stated that what you submit will be monitored or viewed. That's my beef with it all. You want to spy? Fine, but at least have the decency to be forth coming with it.

And when I say explicitly, I mean not hiding it in pages of legal fluff.

Biggest problem is after they close your account there is no recourse, they say contact them but that does absolutely nothing. And none of this is actually made known to you anywhere when using Windows 8. Just wait till they close a couple thousand new Windows 8 users accounts, they will either revise that policy or see users start to migrate to an OS that doesnt block you from your own content.

efjay said,
or see users start to migrate to an OS that doesnt block you from your own content.

Which would be Windows 7.

I'm not OK with this at all. I deleted skydrive off my computer when I heard about the last issue. I don't store porn and don't plan to but the fact they are poking around in your files is what bugs me. I know they have the right according to there user agreement and so I choose not to use them which is disappointing.

There are way to many cloud services to have to put up with somebody telling you what you can and cannot store.

FloatingFatMan said,
People shouldn't keep their only copies of data on remote services who's availability or security they have no control over.

I think that people should be able to trust DropBox, Microsoft, Google, Apple and their respective cloud services to look after their data and make it available to them.

If somebody breaks the rules, especially by accident, then they should be banned from using the service but not before they're able to obtain whatever they uploaded to those services. Clearly anything that breaks that countries laws could be removed from the service and not made available to the user, but they should be able to get all of their other data.

The benefit of cloud services, especially with regards to mobile devices, is that you can store more data than you can store locally on the device and it's accessible from anywhere. I can see why some people might store their data solely in the cloud - however ill informed that decision may be.

First everyone surrendered their personal information voluntarily through Facebook.

Now everyone is surrendering their data voluntarily through the Cloud.

I winder if this isn't a protective measure. Because let's be honest, pornography has always been a touchy subject with folks, and there's always the risk of some kiddie creepers trying to upload crap as well. Saying no to porn all together saves them some trouble and paperwork.

Dot Matrix said,
I winder if this isn't a protective measure. Because let's be honest, pornography has always been a touchy subject with folks, and there's always the risk of some kiddie creepers trying to upload crap as well. Saying no to porn all together saves them some trouble and paperwork.

From the samples the guy provided, I really wouldn't even call it porn. Nothing explicit, just some cutesy anime girls in bikinis cuddling

THolman said,
From the samples the guy provided, I really wouldn't even call it porn. Nothing explicit, just some cutesy anime girls in bikinis cuddling

You might not, but automated scanning softwares routinely flag this sort of content as child pornography.

Once again proof that there isn't human oversight on the scans.

deadonthefloor said,

You might not, but automated scanning softwares routinely flag this sort of content as child pornography.

Once again proof that there isn't human oversight on the scans.

I agree, but I think they've probably got it tweaked on high. Honestly they should be more lax when it comes to 2D stuff unless that's now a crime somehow. But I suppose if the ToS says no porn of any kind, even 2D then they're just letting the system flag things on it's own.

I do agree though that they should give you the ability to go in and get your stuff out before it's gone, that bit is the problem.

deadonthefloor said,

You might not, but automated scanning softwares routinely flag this sort of content as child pornography.

Once again proof that there isn't human oversight on the scans.

My assumption is that the automated software flags it for human review, and then the people decide 'better safe than sorry.' But I'm not sure what's worse; people going through my SkyDrive or letting machines handle it all...

THolman said,
...

Your assumption is not cost effective.
It's just another task type to the existing support staff.
This would be a more likely scenario, judging by the ability to respond to the appeals.

deadonthefloor said,

You might not, but automated scanning softwares routinely flag this sort of content as child pornography.

Once again proof that there isn't human oversight on the scans.


actually, I think they have some sort of reference database of flagged pics and when the system finds matching image it gets banned. still, if they banned/removed just the image in question things would be much more logical, but banning the whole account and deleting all files is unacceptable if they want people to rely on their service pretty much as on they would on personal HDD.