By Heini Järvinen

Microsoft has renewed its Privacy Policy and Service Agreement. The new services agreement goes into effect on 1 August 2015, only a couple of days after the launch of the Windows 10 operating system on 29 July.

The new “privacy dashboard” is presented to give the users a possibility to control their data related to various products in a centralised manner. Microsoft’s deputy general counsel, Horacio Gutierrez, wrote in a blog post that Microsoft believes “that real transparency starts with straightforward terms and policies that people can clearly understand”. We copied and pasted the Microsoft Privacy Statement and the Services Agreement into a document editor and found that these “straightforward” terms are 22 and 23 pages long respectively. Summing up these 45 pages, one can say that Microsoft basically grants itself very broad rights to collect everything you do, say and write with and on your devices in order to sell more targeted advertising or to sell your data to third parties. The company appears to be granting itself the right to share your data either with your consent “or as necessary”.

A French tech news website Numerama analysed the new privacy policy and found a number of conditions users should be aware of:

By default, when signing into Windows with a Microsoft account, Windows syncs some of your settings and data with Microsoft servers, for example “web browser history, favorites, and websites you have open” as well as “saved app, website, mobile hotspot, and Wi-Fi network names and passwords”. Users can however deactivate this transfer to the Microsoft servers by changing their settings.

More problematic from a data protection perspective is however the fact that Windows generates a unique advertising ID for each user on a device. This advertising ID can be used by third parties, such as app developers and advertising networks for profiling purposes.

Also, when device encryption is on, Windows automatically encrypts the drive Windows is installed on and generates a recovery key. The BitLocker recovery key for the user’s device is automatically backed up online in the Microsoft OneDrive account.

Microsoft’s updated terms also state that they collect basic information “from you and your devices, including for example “app use data for apps that run on Windows” and “data about the networks you connect to.”

Users who chose to enable Microsoft’s personal assistant software “Cortana” have to live with the following invasion to their privacy: “To enable Cortana to provide personalized experiences and relevant suggestions, Microsoft collects and uses various types of data, such as your device location, data from your calendar, the apps you use, data from your emails and text messages, who you call, your contacts and how often you interact with them on your device. Cortana also learns about you by collecting data about how you use your device and other Microsoft services, such as your music, alarm settings, whether the lock screen is on, what you view and purchase, your browse and Bing search history, and more.” But this is not all, as this piece of software also analyses undefined “speech data”: “we collect your voice input, as well your name and nickname, your recent calendar events and the names of the people in your appointments, and information about your contacts including names and nicknames.”

But Microsoft’s updated privacy policy is not only bad news for privacy. Your free speech rights can also be violated on an ad hoc basis as the company warns:

“We will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to”, for example, “protect their customers” or “enforce the terms governing the use of the services”.

So much for clearly understandable and straightforward terms of service.

Microsoft Privacy Statement
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/privacystatement/default.aspx

Microsoft Services Agreement
https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/servicesagreement/default.aspx

Windows 10, Microsoft and your personal data: what you need to know (only in French, 11.06.2015)
http://www.numerama.com/magazine/33357-windows-10-microsoft-et-vos-donnees-privees-ce-que-vous-devez-savoir.html

Microsoft provides privacy dashboard ahead of Windows 10 launch (04.06.2015)
http://www.pcworld.com/article/2932132/microsoft-provides-privacy-dashboard-ahead-of-windows-10-launch.html

(Contribution by Kirsten Fiedler and Heini Järvinen, EDRi)

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