New policy would allow company to compile in-depth dossiers of consumers from Bing, Hotmail, other services for targeted advertising
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), co-Chair of the Congressional Bipartisan Privacy Caucus, today wrote to Microsoft about a new policy released quietly last week that would expand the company’s ability to collect and utilize consumer’s personal information, including for targeted advertising. A recent New York Times story reported that the new policy, called the Services Agreement, will allow Microsoft to follow the activities of users across its Web-based services, including Hotmail and Bing, a practice that its previous policy did not permit. The Services Agreement will also allow the company to target advertising to the users of these web-based programs, although Microsoft has publicly stated it will not engage in such targeted advertising. Additionally, it is unclear if the new policy would allow consumers to opt-in to or opt-out from information sharing across Microsoft’s many Web-based products or if users will have no choice in the matter.
“I am concerned about the privacy and security implications of Microsoft’s new policy of aggregating information about consumers across a suite of Microsoft services, stitching together detailed, in-depth consumer profiles,” wrote Rep. Markey in the letter to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. “Such collection may be in Microsoft’s corporate interest, but not necessarily consumers’ interest.
“I have long endorsed a standard that allows consumers to affirmatively decide whether to permit collection of their personal information and targeting of advertisements. However, Friday’s announcement leaves many questions unanswered about whether and to what extent consumers will be able to opt-in to information sharing across Microsoft’s many Web-based products, whether they will have to opt out of such sharing, or whether they will have no choice at all in the matter.”
A copy of Rep. Markey’s letter to Microsoft can be found HERE.
In the letter to Microsoft, Rep. Markey requests responses to questions that include:
- How and when did the company notify consumers about the changes contained in the Service Agreement?
- What are the Web-based products that are impacted by the new Service Agreement?
- Under the new Service Agreement, how will Microsoft share information between Web-based products?
- Will Microsoft use the information that is shared across Web-based products to target advertisements, or do existing privacy policies and the new Service Agreement and permit the information that is shared between products to be used for targeting advertising purposes”
- Will consumers be provided a choice to opt-out of information sharing between Microsoft’s Web-based products?
- Will information collected about children and teens be shared across Web-based products?