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Hotmail – Not Quite The Big Bang

Corporate Responsibility today, means rather more than promising not to ‘cook the books’ or the President standing in front of a large sign that promises corporate America’s future good behaviour. There’s a new ethical dimension to consider which may be just as important as Teflon accounting.

One hundred and sixty four. That was the total number of junk emails waiting for me in my Hotmail inbox on my return from sunny Spain. Roughly ten pieces of junk a day for each day I was away on holiday and it doesn’t include the thirty or so items of Spam which found a temporary home in my conventional office inbox.

Nothing remarkable of course. Only the normal bag of rubbish, ‘Come Visit the Bang Bus’ or “Best Buy Epson Ink Cartridges for Office or Home”. Mind you, the challenge of deleting twelve consecutive “Sex Pics of the Day” with the preview pane open, is rather more than I expected or even deserve at my age.

Perhaps the only solution is to block all email from any domain or address that one doesn’t know. At least this would reduce the load on my in-box, as filters and especially Hotmail’s own ‘Spam Trap’, are even less effective than channel tunnel security.

So why didn’t I use my Hotmail account while I was abroad? Cost. I’m using my mobile phone/Compaq IPAQ combination with GPRS enabled. Downloading lurid emails and loan offers, one hundred and sixty-four of them could prove very expensive over a wireless connection, so better to delete the lot, en masse, over the office Ethernet.

What surprises me is the heavy silence from Microsoft. Following earlier comments on the Spam problem, I did ask the company for some kind of comment. After all, isn’t Microsoft at least morally accountable to its customers? Hotmail might be a free service – well almost – used by millions of people across the world and yet the company, aware that the volume of Spam and inappropriate content is running out of control, chooses to remain silent over the problem, other than offering a feeble filtering option which collapses within the month.

So, why no official comment? Off the record, people will admit that Hotmail is a complete mess that presents a convenient and high profile conduit. One that introduces many of the worst examples of content-driven corruption to a global audience. While I’m not suggesting that Microsoft acts as a censor, I am suggesting that the company sets an example by offering some kind of filtering which can be enabled as an option, to screen out the daily diet of Viagra and teenage webcam offers.
Hotmail is simply an example. The tip of a much larger problem that confronts a world intent on abusing the Internet to its still yet unexplored limits.

So, does corporate responsibility stretch to include an ethical dimension? One associated perhaps with the provision of an on-line service or is the concept of corporate ethics as dated and as laughable as the principle of honesty in politics?


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