December 18, 2012 10:19 pm

EU to review Microsoft’s new terms of use

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The EU’s privacy watchdog has announced it will review Microsoft’s new services agreement, in a similar investigation to one carried out on Google’s new policies earlier this year.

Microsoft updated its service agreement, or terms of use, in October, allowing it to collect data on how free services such as Hotmail webmail, Windows Live instant messaging and Bing search were being used by consumers.

“Given the wide range of services you offer, and popularity of these services, changes in your Services Agreement and the linked Privacy Policy may affect many individuals in most or all of the EU member states,” said the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party – the EU privacy watchdog – in a letter to Microsoft.

In October, the regulator demanded that Google substantially change its privacy policies or face fines, following a review of new policies that allowed it to gather data on users across its many services. “Combining personal data on such a large scale creates high risks to the privacy of users,” Article 29 warned Larry Page, Google’s chief executive, in a letter.

The review was unrelated to a wider antitrust investigation of Google that the European Commission said on Tuesday was moving closer to a resolution.

Google is understood to have lobbied hard for a similar privacy review of Microsoft’s practices, according to sources in Brussels, but Microsoft says it has not changed its privacy policies and, unlike Google, will not use any data to target advertising at consumers.

“We’re happy to answer any questions officials may have about recent changes to the Microsoft Services Agreement, which we’ve said previously do not alter our privacy policies,” said Robin Koch, a Microsoft spokesman in Brussels.

Article 29’s letter calls for a “pause” while it completes its analysis, implying Microsoft make no further changes to its agreement. The data protection agencies of France and Luxembourg will lead the review on Article 29’s behalf.

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