Microsoft Adds Enterprise Products to Privacy Statement

Updates to Microsoft's privacy statement include language about its ability to contact your friends and colleagues to sell to them using your name and photo.

Microsoft, data privacy

Microsoft has updated its privacy statement and included, for the first time, a section called "Enterprise Products."

Microsoft explained that the latter refers to all Microsoft products and related offerings designed for or offered to organizations and developers; "subscription cloud services, such as Office 365, Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, Microsoft Intune, and Yammer"; and products that customers run on their own premises, such as "Windows Server, SQL Server, Visual Studio, and System Center."

The updated statement and new section make clear: Microsoft is collecting a lot of user data—the expected data for the expected reasons, but maybe also data that users don't expect.

For example, if you use Skype, Microsoft collects data such as the time and date, as well as with whom you spoke. And if you use the notification feature that tells you who is calling, for example, or shows you the first words of a chat, that service is provided by a "another company," Microsoft said, which has its own privacy policy.

"Microsoft is not responsible for the data collected by [the] company providing the notification service," it said. If you don't like that, you can turn off that feature.

When you use Cortana, it's important to delve into Cortana "Settings, Permissions and Notebook" because Cortana can access a lot of information. For example, Microsoft shares in bold: "When Cortana is connected to a third-party service, it can also send data to that service to enable the connected service." For example Cortana can send LinkedIn information about the people you meet with or tell Uber your location.

In some cases, Microsoft is also sharing the data it collects. It does this for security reasons and to respond to legal requests, the company said, but it also shares with affiliates, subsidiaries and "vendors working on our behalf."

Enterprise Products

The new Enterprise Products section explained that Microsoft collects data when a customer engages a sales representative, a support professional, or reports an error or problem. And it collects data when a customer pays for a product or receives communications from Microsoft.

Microsoft's Online Services collect both customer data and administrator data.

Customer data "means all data, including all text, sound, video, or image files, and software, that are provided to Microsoft by, or on behalf of, you or your end users through use of the Online Service."

The company uses this data to provide customers with online services and for purposes related to providing those services—for example, to provide a more personalized experience or to block spam.

Microsoft said the company does not use customer data, or information derived from that data, for advertising purposes.

However, administrator data is used to contact users about subscriptions, billing, updates, new features and more, and to contact users with offers from third parties. While you can manage your contact preferences, "you will not be able to unsubscribe from these non-promotional communications," stated Microsoft.

If you allow it to, Microsoft will use administrator data to contact your "friends and colleagues" to send them invitations to use the same online services.

The company explained, "We may contact those individuals with communications that may include information about you, such as your name and profile photo."

As for on-premise products, Microsoft said it mostly collects data to help equipment operate effectively and to offer users the best experiences. For example, if allowed by the user, the company will collect data about your operating environment in order to improve security features, and when you upgrade, it will collect performance data to see if you're experiencing problems.

However, Microsoft points out in bold type that if there is a "conflict" between Microsoft and a customer, many enterprise products have their own, separate privacy statements, and those terms that are the final word.