Markey Concerned About Microsoft Privacy Policy

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is concerned about Microsoft's new
privacy policy changes and has asked the company to better explain them to him.

a letter Monday
following a New York
story on the changes, Markey said he was concerned about the privacy
implications of allowing the company to follow users across Web services like
Hotmail and Bing, collect personal information, and then use it to target
advertising.  Microsoft said Monday it will not use that info for

"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," Markey wrote in the letter to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

He acknowledged, and praised, Microsoft's announced default
do-not=track setting in its new Explorer 10 browser. But Markey has questions
about the impact of the new privacy policy and how it dovetails -- or doesn't --
with that default do-not-track initiative.

"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."

Markey wants the answers, "no later than Nov. 13, to a
number of questions, including:

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"  [The question Microsoft answers
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 and will they have different opt-in and opt-out options?"

Microsoft had one answer immediately. It won't use info for
targeted ads, the company said, and will adjust its revised services agreement to make that clear..

"One thing we don't do is use the content of our customers' private communications and documents to target advertising," the company said. "However, we recognize we could have been clearer about this when we rolled out our updated services agreement. We appreciate the feedback we've received, and as a result, we will update the agreement as soon as possible to make that point absolutely clear."

"The recent update we announced to the Microsoft
Service Agreement did not alter our existing privacy policies, which have been
publicly available online for more than a decade," the company said.
"It also did not change the fact that over the years we have consistently
informed users that we may use their content to improve the services they
receive. For instance, we analyze content to improve our spam and malware
filters in order to keep customers safe. We also do it to develop new product
features such as email categorization to organize similar items like shipping
receipts in a common folder, or to automatically add calendar

Markeyis cosponsor of a bill that would disallow online tracking of kids for
marketing purposes and also provide a "delete" button that parents
could use to expunge information their kids had shared online, but shouldn't

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.