On Friday, Microsoft told security notification subscribers that the service would halt operations on July 1.
From the email:
As of July 1, 2014, due to changing governmental policies concerning the issuance of automated electronic messaging, Microsoft is suspending the use of email notifications that announce the following:
- Security bulletin advance notifications
- Security bulletin summaries
- New security advisories and bulletins
- Major and minor revisions to security advisories and bulletins
In order to stay up-to-date on things, Microsoft encouraged subscribers to use their RSS service, which offers the same information.
The closure notifications came suddenly, causing confusion among some subscribers. However, Microsoft says the change is due to a new law in Canada, which goes into effect on the same day.
Canada's anti-spam law would require organizations to obtain consent for bulk email lists, requiring customers or prospective customers to complete an explicit opt-in process, else the company could face a $10M CAD fine for sending mass notifications.
It isn't clear why Microsoft has suddenly altered the 12-year-old notification system. In 2002, the email lists were created as a way to coordinate Patch Tuesday updates and keep IT professionals in the loop about security-related alerts. Under the new anti-spam laws, Microsoft would be exempt from the fines.
Microsoft would be exempt from such a penalty, because the law offers protection for those who maintain lists for "...warranty information, product recall information or safety or security information about a product, goods or a service that the person to whom the message is sent uses, has used or has purchased..."
Until July 13, Microsoft will register those who opt-in to their mailing lists for a drawing that promises a $500 CDN Microsoft gift voucher.
The promotion is only open to legal residents of Canada.
Microsoft says the notification service will resume operation on July 3.
A Microsoft spokesperson stated the following after this story originally ran:
"On June 27, 2014, Microsoft notified customers that we were suspending Microsoft Security Notifications due to changing governmental policies concerning the issuance of automated electronic messaging. We have reviewed our processes and will resume these security notifications with our monthly Advanced Notification Service (ANS) on July 3, 2014."