Microsoft wants to make it explicitly clear that it doesn’t snoop on your email, photos, or personal files — no matter what.
The changes will take effect beginning July 31.
In the company’s email notification alerting users of the changes, Microsoft emphasises the fact that it won’t use your emails, personal documents, or other files to target ads at you. Here’s what the company says in its new terms of service:
We don’t use what you say in email, chat, video calls or voice mail, to target advertising to you. We don’t use your documents, photos or other personal files to target advertising to you. Our advertising policies are covered in detail in the Privacy Statements.
The move comes nearly three months after Microsoft accessed a blogger’s Hotmail account to find evidence that the blogger had been leaked information about Windows 8 prior to its release. The news was found in an indictment of a former Microsoft employee who was arrested and charged with leaking information to the blogger.
As part of the investigation, Microsoft accessed the blogger’s email account to find evidence of the incident without a court order or the blogger’s consent. The incident occurred in September 2012, but the news didn’t surface until March 2014.
After receiving backlash from the media, Microsoft’s Brad Smith issued a statement addressing the matter, which included the following excerpt:
In addition to changing company policy, in the coming months we will incorporate this change in our customer terms of service, so that it’s clear to consumers and binding on Microsoft.
It seems like this update is the change Smith referred to in his statement, but Microsoft has not confirmed a direct correlation.
For years, Microsoft has prided itself on the fact that it doesn’t use your content to target ads — which is part of the reason the incident mentioned above was so surprising.
Through its “Scroogled” ads, Microsoft has always promoted itself as a more private alternative to Google, which uses your search queries, the websites you visit, and other information to present more relevant ads in Gmail. Google does clarify that its ad targeting mechanism is fully automated, which means no humans are actually reading your email or Google account information. Still, the idea that Google is even keeping track of this data can seem troublesome for some.
As part of its terms of service update, Microsoft also issued a Windows Privacy Statement that breaks down the basics when it comes to privacy, such as laying out what cookies are and what they do, the types of information Microsoft uses from your account, and more.