Microsoft takes that as sufficient permission to start broadcasting the fact that you and the invitee have become "friends," and your new friendship appears on the Hotmail Today screen of all of your other "friends." That's how your boss can find out that you and Snidely have a thing going on. Never mind the fact that you probably didn't know you had a Windows Live Network.
At first blush, the new Wave 4 beta version of Messenger looks like it should block such blatant assaults on your privacy. There's a screen that appears when you start the beta Messenger inviting you to Set Up Your Privacy Settings. One of the options on that screen says "Private." There's an option when you accept an IM invitation to "Limit access this person has." Even if you tell Messenger, through the Windows Live Essentials privacy settings screen, that you want to keep your account "Private" and you "Limit access" to new people on your IM list, your information still gets displayed on other contact's Hotmail Today screen.
And your boss can quite innocently see that you're now friends with Snidely Whiplash.
Is that a beta bug? Or by design? Hard to say. My experiments continue.
For now, suffice it to say that your Messenger users may be in for a rude awakening. If they want to keep their IM contacts private -- or at least keep them off the Hotmail Today screen of everyone they've ever IMed -- it would be a good idea to use AOL Instant Messenger. Every version of Windows Live Messenger that I've seen, including the latest beta, tattles with impunity.
Woody Leonhard's been writing computer books since the days of Windows 3.1. His latest, "Windows 7 All-In-One for Dummies," tells the whole Win 7 story, the good and bad, in a way that won't put you to sleep.
This article, "Privacy problems persist in latest Windows Messenger 2011 beta," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.