Microsoft’s huge privacy PR campaign, a shot across Google’s bow

Microsoft has overhauled their master Microsoft Services Agreement (MSA) that covers Bing, MSN, Outlook.com/Hotmail, etc., and sent out a mass emailing to let folks know how serious they are. There’s good mixed with bad here.

The agreement itself is not necessarily user friendly, but it is definitely written to be much easier to follow. As an example, one of the first things you’ll see, in big bold letters, is this:

IF YOU LIVE IN THE UNITED STATES, SECTION 10 CONTAINS A BINDING ARBITRATION CLAUSE AND CLASS ACTION WAIVER. IT AFFECTS YOUR RIGHTS ABOUT HOW TO RESOLVE ANY DISPUTE WITH MICROSOFT. PLEASE READ IT.

The agreement then offers an FAQ that lays out some important questions and answers. Most service agreements do not do this, counting on you to read all the small print and read between the lines. Kudos to Microsoft on this. But, read on.

Here’s what Microsoft says about privacy:

As part of our ongoing commitment to respecting your privacy, we have updated the Microsoft Services Agreement to state that we do not use what you say in email, chat, video calls, or voice mail to target advertising to you. Nor do we use your documents, photos, or other personal files to target advertising to you.

Not clear if this is a shot across Google’s bow, but it sure reads that way to me. The one inconsistency for me here is that the MFA does not actually contain this privacy language. Instead, it points you to various privacy agreements. When I go to the Windows Services Agreement, for example, I see this language:

We use demographic information – gender, country, age and postal code but not your name or contact information – from your Microsoft account to provide personalized ads to you. You may opt out of receiving targeted ads from Microsoft Advertising by visiting our opt-out page.

Though the two privacy statements to not strictly clash, they certainly paint different pictures as to how Microsoft will use your info to create targeted advertising. Far less transparent, in my opinion.



  • Moeskido

    Sounds a bit like two different workgroups aren’t communicating with each other sufficiently.

    That said, I’m amused at the thought of Microsoft attempting to differentiate itself as a less-obnoxious services provider.