Microsoft tips off US police to man storing child abuse images in OneDrive

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Microsoft tipped off US law enforcers to the presence of a child abuse image stored on a Pennsylvanian man's OneDrive cloud storage account, leading to his arrest.

In the wake of this, the man was also found trying to send two pictures via a Microsoft email account, court documents show.

The suspect has been charged with receiving and sharing child abuse images, thanks to the software giant's intervention, and was arrested on 31 July.

At the time of writing he was being held in custody, and is due to appear in court next week when he is expected to enter a plea.

Microsoft's involvement in the arrest came to light following the publication of an affidavit about the case online, the contents of which has been verified by BBC News.

An officer involved in the case has also confirmed to the BBC that the investigation into the matter was prompted by a tip-off from Microsoft.

And, according to the vendor's terms and conditions, Microsoft was well within its rights to flag the issue to the authorities, as it states that it uses "automated technologies" to detect child abuse images or check for abusive behaviour that "might harm the system, our customers or others."

The case comes hot on the heels of the news about Microsoft rival Google tipping off US authorities to the fact a convicted sex offender was storing child abuse images in his Gmail account.

In this case, the suspect was a fast food worker who reportedly used his position to film children entering the restaurant he worked for, before storing them online in Gmail.

He was also detected sending three explicit pictures of a girl from his account to an associate.

The cases have sparked debate about whether the vendor's actions in these cases constitutes a breach of users' privacy, with Emma Carr, acting director of the campaign group Big Brother Watch, telling the BBC that end users must be made well aware that their communications may be monitored.

"It is also important that all companies who monitor messages in this way are very clear about what procedures and safeguards are in place to ensure that people are not wrongly criminalised, for instance, when potentially illegal content is shared but has been done so legitimately in the context of reporting or research," explained Carr.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.