Microsoft Begins Recycling Unused Hotmail Email Addresses - And There Are Major Security Concerns

Microsoft Begins Recycling Unused Hotmail Email Addresses – And There Are Major Security Concerns

Back in the day, Hotmail was the best email service around. You got lots of free space (like 5MB!) and better yet, you got to chat with all your cool friends on MSN.

Well, Hotmail’s heyday is long gone. In fact, Hotmail doesn’t even exist anymore. Microsoft converted it into Outlook.com earlier this year. Now, Microsoft wants to get rid of even more of its past: your unused email accounts.

Yahoo tried this and it turned out badly

Yahoo did a few months ago with unused email accounts and people harshly criticized the company for it. After all, couldn’t someone take your old email address and use it to commit identity theft? Yahoo claimed to have taken steps against these measures and there have not been any major data leaks thus far.

Even worse, Yahoo created a website at http://wishlist.yahoo.com where users could fill out their top 5 requested email addresses. Just fill out the email addresses of a few of your friends who’ve switched to new addresses and you’re set to perform identity theft!

Hotmail

Microsoft will try this the exact same way

Microsoft will be taking a similar approach with its recycling of old email addresses. Over the next few weeks, Microsoft will slowly recycle old accounts on the following services:

-Hotmail

Windows Live ID

-Outlook

The major controversy about Microsoft’s recycling of IDs is the fact that Microsoft did not mention that it would ever do so in its service agreement. Instead, it simply states that Microsoft users are required to log into their Microsoft-branded accounts:

“…periodically, at a minimum of every 270 days, to keep the Microsoft branded services portion of the services active.”

If users do not sign in every 270 days, Microsoft “may cancel your access” and “your data may be permanently deleted from our servers.”

That sounds pretty comprehensive, right? Unfortunately, that’s not quite comprehensive enough for some users because they say that Microsoft never mentioned it would recycle old email addresses.

Microsoft will recycle your old email address and make it available to use after about a year and a half of not being used.

How long before Microsoft recycles your email address?

outlook

Microsoft will deactivate your account after 270 days of inactivity, as mentioned above. Once your account enters that inactivity period, it enters a queue that lasts for a total of 360 days.

Once that queue is complete, the email account name is made available again.

That’s not a very long time – especially if you use your Outlook account to sign up for important messages and emails. Here’s how Microsoft plans to combat security concerns:

-Nothing

-“Listen closely to the feedback we receive from customers”

This is especially worrying because InformationWeek.com recently published a report highlighting the fact that new Yahoo users with old email addresses receive emails destined for the previous account holder. That’s scary.

Our suggestion for avoiding identity theft

gmail recommended

Use Gmail. Or, sign into your email account at least once every 1.5 years. This is 2013, after all.

Gmail never deletes usernames from its servers due to privacy concerns. Once an email account has gone inactive (or once users delete their own email accounts), Google never frees up that username and it will never be available to use in the future.

This is a selfish decision for Microsoft to make and the fact that it’s not mentioned in service agreements is a little scary. Whether you delete your account or just let it go inactive, there are major privacy concerns when dealing with recycling old email addresses.

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