Microsoft promises to be even more transparent about data it collects

Microsoft announced three improvements in regards to privacy and data collection on April 30, 2019. The steps, revealed by Microsoft Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Julie Brill, on the official Microsoft Blog, are designed to "give customers increased transparency and control over their data that is used by Microsoft's major products".

The three steps, categorization of data, increased transparency, and a new biannual privacy report, address feedback of Microsoft customers in regards to privacy.

Brill notes that customers are concerned about privacy, and that they want to know more about the data that Microsoft collects and how it uses the data.

In recent months we’ve heard from customers – especially those in Europe – with questions about the data that is collected from their devices when they use our products and services.

Microsoft faced some heat, especially from European Data Protection Authorities, e.g. from the Netherlands or France, over the company's Windows 10 operating system and its collecting of data.

Tip: check out these privacy tools for Windows 10.

Categorization

microsoft privacy

Microsoft wants to categorize data that it collects in all its major products. Collected data is either categorized as required or optional. Required data is data that is necessary to operate Microsoft products and services.

Brill mentions terms of a search query, and the IP address, type and version of the device for connectivity to Microsoft cloud services and delivering security patches.

Customers may, in some instances, control if required data is collected, as they may select to use certain features, e.g. using Microsoft cloud services. New configuration options will be unveiled in the near future to give customers more control over data collection for certain features or functions according to Brill.

Optional data is non-essential data for products or services. Microsoft customers "will be able to control the collection of optional data" without affecting the use of specific features or services.

Microsoft, once again, wants to give customers control over the data collecting so that they may allow or block the collecting.

Brill mentions two examples of optional data: data about pictures embedded into Word documents to "provide better image options" and the time it takes for PowerPoint slides to appear to "improve the experience if it's slow".

Increased transparency

Microsoft plans to improve documentation in regards to privacy and transparency. The company plans to update the company's Privacy Hub and the Enterprise Trust Center with information about the data that it collects.

Customers will be able to see required and optional data for major Microsoft products. Explanations and descriptions will be provided to help customers understand why data is required or optional.

We’ll improve upon our existing documentation practices, to describe what we collect in these two categories, in ways that are easy to understand, and to explain why data in the required category is necessary.

Biannual privacy report

Microsoft will publish a biannual privacy report that highlights new required data that Microsoft began to collect and data that Microsoft no longer collects.

The report will be published on Microsoft's Privacy website.

This report will highlight any new required data collection we believe is fundamental to provide, secure, update or maintain the performance of our products. We will also note instances when we stop collecting certain types of data from devices (because product or service changes mean the data is no longer required). Last, we will explain when we make changes to our data collection in response to new privacy laws, industry standards and regulations.

Closing Words

The changes will roll out in the coming months. Categorization will focus on Windows 10 and Office365 ProPlus first; other Microsoft products, Xbox and Dynamics 365 are mentioned specifically, will follow at a later point in time.

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