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Microsoft insists it's not scanning users' emails so it can serve up better ads

The company responds to privacy fears surrounding how Windows 10 collects and uses information from users.

Terry Myerson during the announcement of Windows 10 back in January.
Terry Myerson during the announcement of Windows 10 back in January.
Image: Ron Wurzer/Associated Press

MICROSOFT HAS INSISTED Windows 10 doesn’t scan users’ emails, messages or files so it can serve up targeted ads.

Since it launched more than two months ago, Microsoft has had to deal with growing privacy concerns such as automatic updates that happen without the user’s permission, and downloading Windows 10 even if the user didn’t allow it, and in some cases, sending identifiable information back to Microsoft even when it’s switched off.

In a blog post addressing these issues, Microsoft chief Terry Myerson said this wasn’t the case and that it takes numerous measures to ensure that privacy is at the forefront of what it does.

“I assure you that no other company is more committed, more transparent and listening harder to customers on this important topic than we are,” he said in the post.

Unlike some other platforms, no matter what privacy options you choose, neither Windows 10 nor any other Microsoft software scans the content of your email or other communications, or your files, in order to deliver targeted advertising to you.

Myerson explained that Windows 10 collects two types of data, the first is to ensure the platform is reliable and doesn’t cause problems for users.

If an app crashes for a user, information that’s sent back to Microsoft include an anonymous device ID, device type and application crash data so a fix can be included in the next update.

Myerson says that the company takes “several steps to avoid collecting any information that directly identifies you”, ensuring that all data collected is anonymised.

This doesn’t include any of your content or files, and we take several steps to avoid collecting any information that directly identifies you, such as your name, email address or account ID.

The other area is personalisation which uses the data about you to bring up recommendations or speed up certain actions like remembering common words you use in messages.

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Windows 10 launch event Windows 10 was praised when it launched but privacy concerns still follow it. Source: John Stillwell/PA Wire

This information would be used mainly by Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana, which hasn’t been released in Ireland yet, but personalised data is used in similar services like Apple’s Siri and Google Now.

Myerson also addressed the issue of family features somewhat, which sends parents an overview of their child’s activity automatically.

As well as introducing features that will be more appropriate for teenagers, compared to younger children, it will also release an update that will “further enhance the notifications that kids and parents get about activity reporting in Windows”.

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About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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