Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist
19 October 2003

Microsoft’s new “Information Rights Management”:http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview/editions/technologies/irm.asp software in Office 2003 will only let approved users open Outlook email messages which are ‘IRMed’ and allow users to set an expiry date after which their messages will die. Rather handy for business use, but if you “read the fine print”:http://www.microsoft.com/technet/treeview/default.asp?url=/technet/itcommunity/chats/trans/office/OFF0327.asp you find out that:
1) This is a subscription-based service, so if you use it you will be locked into paying Microsoft for ever after.
2) The only email software that will be able to read ‘IRMed’ messaged so far will be Outlook 2003 – and there are not even plans to make rights management work on the Mac.

I worry profoundly about what might happen if this proves popular. It might result in a situation where it’s a lot of hassle for non-Outlook email users to receive Outlook email and/or where people using Outlook end up having to remember who in their address book has Outlook and who doesn’t.

It also might actually make corporate email security worse – no technology fix is perfect and this might make people think they have solved the problem when in fact the only solution is eternal vigilance…


  1. what a great idea!

    Comment by Darren — 22 October 2003 @ 8:56 am

  2. This is a typical Microsoft solution – Obviously they figured they have enough of a market share to lock out non-Outlook users. I hope this won’t work out, I don’t like reading my mail with an insecure pseudo-groupware tool.

    Comment by Tom — 23 March 2004 @ 6:49 pm

  3. Microsoft launches “auto-shredding” email

    Microsoft’s Information Rights Management system for email in Office 2003 could at best cause confusion and at worse balkanization of Internet email into Outlook and non-Outlook users.

    Trackback by respice - prospice — 21 October 2003 @ 11:34 pm

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