Microsoft policy change allows it to collect more of your personal data
Microsoft has slipped a new policy under the radar that allows it to have more power of over how it gathers and uses personal information from users of its free, web-based products like email, search and instant messaging.
Almost no one noticed, however, even though Microsoft’s policy changes are much the same as those that Google made to its privacy rules this year. The new Microsoft policy allows for targeted advertising. Microsoft promised not to do so in blog posts and emails informing its customers about the change, but not in the formal policy.
Google’s expanded powers drew scathing criticism from privacy advocates, sparking inquiries from regulators and broadside attacks from rivals. Those rivals included Microsoft, which bought full-page newspaper ads telling Google users that Google did not care about their privacy, an accusation it quickly denied.
Microsoft’s policy, which it calls its Services Agreement, allows it to analyse customer content from one its free products and use it to improve another — for example, taking information from messages a consumer sends on Windows Live Messenger and using it to improve messaging services on Xbox. That kind of sharing of information between products would not have been allowed under previous Microsoft policies.
But the new Microsoft policy does allow for such targeted advertising. Microsoft promised not to do so in blog posts and emails informing its customers about the change, but not in the formal policy. That has some privacy advocates nervous.
Jack Evans, a Microsoft spokesman, says the company’s plans are benign. “Over the years, we have consistently informed users that we may use their content to improve the services they receive,” Evans said in a written statement. “For instance, we analyse content to improve our spam and malware filters in order to keep customers safe.”
Microsoft’s new services agreement affects only its free, web-based products, not the software programs that individuals and companies buy off the shelf.
Evans said the change “did not alter our existing privacy policies.” Those policies include a 4000-word main policy and at least 16 related product-specific privacy policies.