Microsoft's account suspensions and the OneDrive 'nude' photos

[German]Users of a Microsoft account – needed for Microsoft services or in Windows 10 – may facing a strange behaviro. Their Microsoft account may be suspended without a warning for life time. One reason could be OneDrive  content, that violates Microsoft's terms of service. A photo of the bathing children can cause your Microsoft account to be suspended – for lifetime – and you'll be digitally exist no more.


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I'm taking up the topic of 'blocking Microsoft accounts' again, which has been bogged down here in the blog for quite some time. The background is that I am coordinating with my Windows Insicer MVP colleague Martin Geuß on this issue.

Problem: Microsoft account suddenly blocked

Whoever acquires a (free) Microsoft account for Windows 10, OneDrive, OneNote, Skype, Office, Teams etc. in a private environment is taking a risk. Martin Geuß and myself have discovered that Microsoft can block such an account for life at any time and without warning. And this is no joke, it happens – since 2019 we have collected over 40 cases. I have it picked up in my blog post Stop: Arbitrary blocking of Microsoft Accounts . A user facing this block, no longer exists.

OneDrive content is actively scanned

Martin and I are driven by the question why Microsoft seems to block accounts arbitrarily? The users affected didn't get a reason why the account has been shut down. But I had mentioned in my old blog post Stop: Arbitrary blocking of Microsoft Accounts VPN accesses as one reason. The second reason for a block might be content on OneDrive. Martin Geuß noticed that people affected had uploaded large amounts of photos to their OneDrive before the sudden block. Now it has long been known that Microsoft scans the OneDrive contents for corresponding material, which the company believes is illegal or undesirable.

Martin Geuß has therefore taken up this topic again and links to his German article at Dr. Windows in the tweet above. Martin explicitly refers to Section 3 (Code of Conduct.) of the Microsoft Service Agreement, which every owner of a Microsoft account accepts when setting up a Microsoft account:


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 iv. Don't publicly display or use the Services to share inappropriate content or material (involving, for example, nudity, bestiality, pornography, offensive language, graphic violence, or criminal activity).

This rubber paragraph is of course wonderful to apply to OneDrive content. Topless photos or children without nappies, with naked bodies (in the bathtub, playing games etc.), which are not objectionable in Germany, were banned in the USA – and the account suspension follows.

The problem is that you don't even have to actively upload such pictures to OneDrive as a user – you could control such things. Microsoft or the developers create apps like the OneDrive client in such a way that it automatically takes care of files on the hard drive and synchronizes them with the OneDrive storage. Then it's not long before photos from WhatsApp groups or the like are synchronized with OneDrive. Martin goes into more detail here and writes that the AI for evaluating files and pictures works similarly with Dropbox, Google, Microsoft etc.

Long speech short conclusion: Leave your photos out of the cloud – and I would go even further and say: Do without the cloud and Microsoft accounts – which is what this article is all about. I'm also thinking of Microsoft teams or other services, where photos may be exchanged with third parties, which are then checked by AI and may lead to account suspension.


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16 Responses to Microsoft's account suspensions and the OneDrive 'nude' photos

  1. Chris Pugson says:

    Make sure that OneDrive startup is disabled in the Windows 10 Task Manager. I don't use it but why add OneDrive to the resource load? BornCity has now given me a very strong reason to disable OneDrive.

  2. Thilo Langbein says:

    Are business accounts storage also scanned/blocked?

  3. Braam says:

    Good day
    My account was also blocked for no reason and now I have no access to any of my photos that was moved to onedrive account. How can I recover the photos and unlink from this account.
    I have send numerous mails to them with no response.
    Thank you

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  5. ken says:

    I know the feeling I did pay for one drive 1TB just to backup my photo before I was formating my computer. what I didn't think was going to be a problem is that I have a naked pitcher of both my children when they were born and few pitchers when they are running naked in the summer playing in the pool.
    my main problem is that I didn't take another backup of the photo before I did format my pc.. 1 week later I got blocked from all my accounts and lost around 9 years' worth of my children's pitcher. Microsoft says I won't get anything back and that I never will get to use anything from them. even my Xbox did they block. if you want to take care of photo just buy an extra HDD. for me personally I think Microsoft should inform better

    • guenni says:

      FYI: Here in Germany I've had the feedback from an affected user, that support granted him access for a week allowing him to pull his material from OneDrive.

      There is also a plain tiff ongoing against Microsoft Germany, to find out by a judge, whether Microsoft has the right to block a user from downloading his material. But I don't know the current state.

    • lol says:

      just buy 1 tb from google drive and upload it there. they won't ban you. and it's way better than microshitsoft.

  6. Sergey says:

    Yes they're
    My business account has been blocked and I have no more acess to One Drive with no more explanations from MS support just with note: "(sic!) SOME rules seems haven't been met" or like this with no details which rules etc. Ther're ONLY pdf dwg and doc files strored as the account exactly for work and shared among others

  7. SRW says:

    I've been racking my brains for the last 24 hours on why my MS account has been closed down entirely without any prior warning. I discovered this thread and have realised it is because this week I transferred around 250GB's of historical family pictures. A very, very small number of photo's would have included my children in a state of undress whilst bathing. I find it repulsive that somebody at MS has decided MY family pictures are of a sexual nature, but also that MS are indirectly accusing me of harbouring child pornography. I shall be objecting to this as strongly as I possibly can, what an awful, awful thing to be accused of from behind a corporate cloak.

  8. IAW says:

    Unfortunately, this happened to me too.
    I decided to back up my phone as it had all the photos of my sons first two years on it and i didnt wanna risk losing them. I was unaware that photos of my sons first bath etc would be deemed as inappropriate.

    I lost access to all my photos, all my work files stored on my onedrive, even my xbox account that ive had since the original xbox. So not only my priceless photos of memories gone, thousands of hours of work, and over a decades worth of digitally purchased xbox games over several generations and thousands of dollars as i stupidly decided "digital is the way to go".

    What hurts more, is the account may be banned, but the files are still all stored locally too, but i cant access them without the banned account credentials. I just have an icon with a little grey X on it.

    Lesson learned.

  9. The Start of my MS Warpath says:

    Newest member of "what the hell just happened!?" to my OneDrive account. Pictures of my son born. Brothers I fought in combat with no longer here. I really need to figure out a way to get a 48 hour period to get my stuff in the personal vault. Obviously its in a vault for a reason, and these folks just deny you of it because? That is like Microsoft walking across my grass one day and I have a sign that says "STAY OFF MY GRASS."

    MS drops their wallet and keeps going unknowingly. I pick up their wallet in an attempt to find out the owner, I see a picture of the current Steelers Football team. Wait…I hate the Steelers and all of their fans. This guy doesn't get his wallet back, and send him an email to tell him that. But not even that specific. "I saw something in your wallet that I didn't like. No wallet for you. F that.

    I use microsoft since I was who cares. My kid now uses my Xbox account. I use outlook for work, MS Office for work and anything. A life time ban?! You're kidding me…We need warning. We need time to get OUR personal belongings back. I have been seeing red since this happened.

    • Jorge Clarkson says:

      You mention your sign and use it to illustrate a point… Microsoft doesn't need an example, they already use the sign, although in very real and very legal way. It's called an "agreement." In it the language about, in the United States lingo, obscene content. Specifically, from the Microsoft Services Agreement:

      "Don't publicly display or use the Services to share inappropriate content or material (involving, for example, nudity, bestiality, pornography, offensive language, graphic violence, or criminal activity)."

      Now, they reserve the right to do a bunch of things, but unless your content is really bad, particularly illegal, they are likely to just perform a deletion of the content. Does file content remain after a true deletion? Yes. It doesn't mean you're entitled to it or anything else you stored on THEIR OneDrive licensed for use by you for, in most cases, free. Do files remain after a user's account is suspended, removed, or otherwise blocked? Often, yes. Once again, it doesn't mean you're entitled to it or anything else you stored on THEIR OneDrive licensed for use by you. Did you store something, even one picture of grainy quality that meets THEIR standards for inappropriate content? Yes? I think we know where this leads. Microsoft pioneered technology for AI and automated activities by computers, one called PhotoDNA, which now also works on video content, is their work. It can find material that is a no-no, whether or not it's a no-no in YOUR opinion. If it comes to it, store it offline.

      Eek!

      • guenni says:

        It's just the half of the picture. I've cases, where mass uploads due to a change of a software was probably the reason for an account suspension.

        There is no procedure, where you can fight against a false flagged suspension – you even don't get informed about the reason for the suspension. This is a no go.

  10. Bruno says:

    It happened to me in january this year, I tried everything I could to get my stuff back but nothing worked.

    I took them to court and the judge ruled in my favor demanding ms to give it back or pay a fine of $1000 per day.

    they also said that they blocked my account because I was sharing child pornography… wtf!?

    Their response??

    WE ALREADY DELETED YOUR DATA SO WE CANNOT GIVE IT BACK.

    I immediately jumped in a chat with their support asking about my onedrive files, and the support guy said my files were all there, including my xbox games etc etc… I recorded the chat and responded to their claim with the chat history:

    their responded exactly the same thing.

    Now I'm waiting for the judge…

    The biggest mistake of my life was to trust these thieves, pigs, dirty company!

    DO NOT TRUST THIS COMPANY! NEVER! DO NOT MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE AS A LOT OF PEOPLE DID!

  11. Falaipas says:

    Hi, at my job we work with share drive and One Drive. My question is, is it normal to see in my desktop small cloud (just next to the clock) my colleagues files uploads? Mine I understand, but my colleagues? that is my question.
    Thanks

    • guenni says:

      Should not be normal – never heard that – but I don't see the details – can you send me some screenshots and more details – maybe it's a shared account? The mail address may be found in the about section

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