EU to Investigate Microsoft's Privacy Policy

Regulators want to examine whether changes to Microsoft's policies violate any laws.
Posted December 18, 2012

Cynthia Harvey

The EU's data protection agency plans to investigate recent changes to Microsoft's privacy policies. Earlier this year, the agency launched a similar investigation of Google.

Bloomberg's Stephanie Bodoni reported, "Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)’s policy changes for its Internet products including Hotmail and Bing are being formally examined by European data protection regulators for potential privacy issues. Updates to Microsoft’s services agreement, which took effect Oct. 19, are being formally reviewed, EU privacy regulators wrote to Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer and the head of Microsoft Luxembourg. Luxembourg’s and France’s data protection commissions are leading the examination, according to the Dec. 17 letter, obtained by Bloomberg News."

ZDNet's Zack Whittaker added, "According to a letter obtained by the publication, the chairman of the Article 29 Working Party, a EU group made up of individual member states' data watchdogs, wrote to Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer to inform the company that the new policy, which 'may affect many individuals in most or all of the EU member states,' will be looked into by the group to 'check the possible consequences for the protection of the personal data of these individuals in a coordinated procedure.'"

The Verge's Adi Robertson noted, "Among other things, Microsoft's new services agreement lets it integrate user content from cloud services like SkyDrive and Office.com across different tools. It's reminiscent of Google's unified privacy policy, which prompted harsh condemnation in Europe earlier this year. That doesn't, however, mean that Microsoft will necessarily run into the same problems, since Google was slammed for offering 'incomplete' information or not allowing for meaningful consent, not just combining data. Gerard Lommel, a Luxembourg official whose agency started a preliminary review in October, has previously said that while 'clear privacy issues had been identified' with Google's agreement, issues with Microsoft's 'can neither be excluded nor confirmed.'"

Computerworld quoted Microsoft's Robin Koch, who said, "In updating the Microsoft Services Agreement we did not change our privacy policy. We are confident they will find Microsoft's long-standing commitment to privacy has not changed. And we're happy to answer any questions the officials may have."

Tags: Microsoft, privacy, EU, SkyDrive, Office, policies

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