Microsoft admits Friday a major security glitch in its Hotmail system has sent up to one million users' personal details to advertisers without their permission.
It will come as a second embarrassment for the software giant's widely used Internet email service. In August Hotmail hit the headlines when a security slip allowed any Web user to access people's Hotmail accounts in what was described then as possibly the largest security breach ever.
The current problem happens when a Hotmail user reads an email containing a banner advertisement. Microsoft says it expects to solve the glitch in August. Independent security consultant Richard Smith tells the Wall Street Journal up to one million names could have been inadvertently transmitted to more than 20 companies.
Microsoft claims it is a widespread problem and that it is working fast to fix it. "Microsoft places the highest priority on consumer privacy and security," says a Microsoft spokeswoman. "The error is common on the Internet and is not specific to Microsoft."
David Litchfield, managing director at Cerberus Information Security believes the problem could be widespread among free Web-based email services. "I would imagine other free email services like Yahoo! are in the same situation," he says.
Yahoo! was not contactable at press time.