If you are a regular reader of FindLaw’s Technologist, you may have sensed our growing consternation with large tech companies’ attack on users’ privacy. Google scans emails and displays advertisements based on the content. Apple deletes emails with the phrase “barely legal teen” without user permission. And Facebook privacy? Don’t even get us started on Facebook.
It’s enough to (almost) make you want to burn your smartphone and move to a cabin in the woods - except, wait, yep, just got an email from a client. Going offline is not really an option, now is it?
- Your information is shared within Microsoft (to improve services). The New York Times points out the pseudo-hypocrisy here, as Microsoft previously lambasted Google's move to share information across its services.
- Microsoft does not scan your emails for ads - only for spam and malware detection. This is the biggest point of their Scroogled campaign and the most significant difference between Microsoft and Google's treatment of your data.
There's a lot more, but we are constrained by our attention span and yours (it's a long document full of a mixture of tech and law speak). We recommend reading it thoroughly if you use Microsoft's services, such as Outlook.com email or Skydrive.
No, Microsoft's biggest pro-privacy step, beyond any written policy, was their enabling by default of "Do Not Track" in Internet Explorer 10, which came with every copy of Windows 8. The feature was available in IE9, and on other competing browsers, but has to be enabled manually. It sends a signal to online advertisers not to track users' behavior for purposes of targeting ads.
The Association of National Advertisers stated that DNT could prevent them from collecting data from forty-three percent of browsers used by Americans. That's more privacy, yet less relevant ads. Of course, DNT isn't a mandatory policy. Yahoo! has already pledged to ignore it.
Still, any step towards privacy keeps us one step away from grabbing our flip phone and heading back to the wilderness.
- Advancing Consumer Trust and Privacy: Internet Explorer in Windows 8 (Microsoft's Technet Blog)
- Microsoft's SkyDrive WILL Be Your Cloud Storage (FindLaw's Technologist)
- Microsoft's New Outlook.com is a Pretty Great Email Service (FindLaw's Technologist)