Microsoft announced recently that it would bolster the privacy capabilities of its Windows, Skype, Xbox and OneDrive services to create a transparent and easy to use the tools. V3 has put together a mini-breakdown of the changes and why Microsoft has made them.
Why is Microsoft collecting data?
To provide users with the best experiences.
How does it collect it?
Through cookies, searches, documents in OneDrive, Cortana, third parties, error messages, software and devices, from data and services and through its support contacts.
What does it do with that information?
Improve services, encourage sales and upgrades, and advertise to its customers.
What information will it not use for advertising purposes?
What its users say or share in email, chat, video calls, voicemail, documents, photos or "other personal files".
Does Microsoft share the information that it collects?
Yes. Microsoft shares personal detail with consent, or as necessary, to complete transactions or complete services. It also shares data with its affiliates and subsidiaries and companies working on its behalf. It will also share information when required to by law or when copyright or lives are at stake.
What collects what?
Bing: Search queries, location and other information about user interaction. You can delete some of this information through settings (browsing history, for example) but Microsoft will retain and share some of the data for research purposes.
Skype: Partner companies have access to some information, as do law authorities depending on circumstances. Also logged is usage data including the time and date of communications and the numbers or user names involved.
Windows: A wide breadth of information is collected here. Data about speech, handwriting and typing is taken to boost input recognition, while, for example, the Find My Phone feature will periodically send and store a record of your last known location whether it is turned on or not.
MSN website and apps: Information on devices on which apps are used and installed as well as interaction data including usage frequency and content viewed. Information is plucked from MSN News, Weather, Sports, Money, Travel, Food & Drink, Health & Fitness. Microsoft said that users can opt out of advertising.
Cortana: As a smart, learning personal assistant, Cortana collects pretty much everything, including browsing and text and email information.
"Cortana uses data collected through other Microsoft services to provide personalised suggestions," explained Microsoft. "You can manage what data Cortana uses, and what it knows about you in Cortana Settings and Notebook."
Microsoft said in a blog post that the system provides a more personalised experience that is meaningful, clear and easier to manage. The actions follow similar changes by Google earlier this month.
"What do Windows, Skype, Xbox Live and OneDrive have in common? One simpler service agreement and privacy statement from Microsoft," said the post.
"In a world of more personalised computing, customers need meaningful transparency and privacy protections. And those aren't possible unless we get the basics right.
"For consumer services, that starts with clear terms and policies that respect individual privacy and don't require a law degree to read."
Microsoft is updating its terms and conditions, including the Services Agreement and the Privacy Statement that it asks users to sign.
Horacio Gutiérrez, deputy general counsel and corporate vice president for legal and corporate affairs at Microsoft, said that the changes will start this week and that the new policies come into effect on 1 August.
"The Microsoft Services Agreement will now expand to cover most of Microsoft's consumer services", he said.
"The Privacy Statement is also being refreshed and restructured, reducing redundancies and providing a single, straightforward resource for understanding Microsoft's commitments for protecting individual privacy with these services, and will also cover new technologies like the forthcoming Windows 10."
There are three main themes in the update: Simplicity, Transparency and Privacy. Gutiérrez said that many of the individual policies share the same documents and that it makes sense to pool them.
Microsoft is taking a lead from Google that unified its policies in 2012.
Microsoft is currently engaged in a legal battle with the US over held data held in Ireland.
Gutiérrez said that the new Privacy Statement offers a balance between simplicity and service level type information.
Privacy information is short and to the point, and Microsoft said that it does not exploit customer information for advertising purposes and leaves the control of information to the individual.
"It is important to note that these changes do not represent a change in Microsoft's approach to customer privacy," he said.
"We are simplifying the Services Agreement and Privacy Statement because we believe that real transparency starts with straightforward terms and policies that people can clearly understand.
"As our services evolve, we recognise we must continue earning your trust. These changes aim to help do just that."
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