A “small number” of Microsoft Outlook.com and SkyDrive customers had trouble accessing the services on Wednesday morning, although so far it is unclear exactly what happened to cause the access issues.
As of 2 pm on Wednesday, SkyDrive is running normally, though Outlook.com and People (its address book) are still experiencing issues.
There are more than 400 million Outlook.com users, taking into account the users Microsoft transferred to Oulook.com when it was launched a year ago.
Email has been in the forefront of privacy and security discussion recently, ever since the NSA PRISM program came to light a couple of months ago. In July, the Guardian obtained documents that indicated Microsoft gave the NSA pre-encryption stage access to email on Outlook.com. While Microsoft later denied the allegations, it did attract public and media scrutiny, bringing into question the privacy of messages sent over free webmail services like Outlook.com and Gmail.
Earlier this week, Google came under fire for its comments on user expectations around privacy in a court filing; “just as a sender of a letter to a business colleague cannot be surprised that the recipient’s assistant opens the letter, people who use Web-based email today cannot be surprised if their communications are processed by the recipient’s ECS [electronic communications service] provider in the course of delivery.”
Some email providers in Germany are taking this is an opportunity to market their secure email, which critics have said is disingenuous considering they only provide for email in transit and not actual secure data storage.