Technology giant Microsoft has confirmed changes in its data policy after the company admitted scanning the email of an internet blogger to gather evidence about possible information leaks.
Earlier this week the company confirmed that it had accessed the Hotmail account - which Microsoft owns and operates - of a French blogger to obtain evidence about leaks.
It had been alleged that a former Microsoft employee had leaked confidential copies of the Windows 8 operating system before it was released to the public. The incident, which occurred in 2012, has since been investigated by the FBI over claims of theft of trade secrets.
In a statement, the company said it has adjusted its policy for dealing with future incidents like this, using an independent legal team to analyse whether or not they have the right to search through personal accounts, citing the unique legal position the case creates.
"Courts do not issue orders authorising someone to search themselves, since obviously no such order is needed. So even when we believe we have probable cause, it's not feasible to ask to order us to search ourselves," Microsoft said.
"However, even we should not conduct a search of our own email and other customer services unless the circumstances would justify a court order, if one were available."
Microsoft then outlined the new practices they will use in future, including the introduction of an external legal team to analyse any potential cases and "comply to the standards applicable to obtaining a court order".
The statement then explained how evidence will be passed to an outside lawyer who Microsoft said is a former federal judge, and that the PC developer will not proceed unless the attorney concludes a court order would be attainable.
The company has been heavily criticised for the incident, especially in the wake of a series of advertising campaigns casting rival Google in a negative light for accessing customer data.
Vice president John Frank signed off the statement by re-enforcing Microsoft's belief that the corporation had acted correctly in this instance, but were aware they needed to work to keep customer trust.
"The privacy of our customers is incredibly important to us, and while we believe our actions in this particular case were appropriate given the specific circumstances, we want to be clear about how we will handle similar situations going forward. That is why we are building on our current practices and adding to them to further strengthen our processes and increase transparency."
The company also promised to submit bi-annual reports on the number of searches undertaken, and the number of customer accounts that have been affected as part of the transparency efforts.
Google has also announced that it is increasing the level of security around its email platform. In a blog post, the Gmail operator said that all messages will now be encrypted to prevent others from reading them, and that the secure HTTPS connection will now be applied every time you check or send email.