Microsoft legalizes collection of user info from its free services

In a move that has not been noted by the great majority of Microsoft users, the Redmond giant has changed its Services Agreement on Friday in order to legalize the collection of all personal information and customer content that can be gathered from the consumers of its free Web-based products (Hotmail, Bing, Outlook email service, etc.), and to use it to improve its other services.

The change is perfectly logical from Microsoft’s perspective, but what worries privacy advocates even more is the fact that another change – announced via Microsoft blog posts and direct emails to customers – has not been effected in the Agreement.

Microsoft has announced that, unlike Google, it will not use the contents of its customers’ private communications and documents to create targeted advertising – another logical decision as the company’s revenue doesn’t rely heavily on online advertising.

Still, the new Service Agreement fails to make that clear, and privacy advocates, the media, and even U.S. political representatives have been sure to point it out.

According to the NYT, Microsoft has reacted speedily and appropriately, by saying that they will be changing the Service Agreement to explicitly state their decision about not collecting information to fuel targeted advertising.

“We could have been clearer about this when we rolled out our updated Services Agreement. We appreciate the feedback we’ve received, and as a result, we will update the agreement as soon as possible to make that point absolutely clear,” they confirmed in a statement on Monday.

In his letter to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Massachusetts Representative Edward J. Markey also noted that he was worried about the “privacy and security implications of Microsoft’s policy of aggregating information about consumers across a suite of Microsoft services, stitching together detailed, in-depth consumer profiles,” and urged the company to think about offering users the option of opting in the collection of the information rather than doing it by default.

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