What Does Microsoft Know About You? [telecom]

In-Depth What Does Microsoft Know About You?

We take a look at all the various sources of data Microsoft collects from customers, how it stores and uses that data, and how its use of it stacks up against Google and other competitors.

By Lee Pender


Just about every software vendor or Web service collects information about its users. Some do it with more subtlety than others, but the fact is that there's hardly an application or Web site that doesn't gather some sort of intelligence about you every time you use it. Microsoft, of course, is no exception. From Windows Activation Technologies (WAT) to Bing, Microsoft stockpiles information on you even when you don't sign up for services such as Hotmail. But what does Microsoft know about you?

Actually, a more appropriate question might be: What kind of information about you can Microsoft see? It could see a lot, but there are some things that the company chooses not to view or store. For example, the unpopular WAT, formerly known as Windows Genuine Advantage, is perhaps the least intrusive of the Microsoft information-gathering tools. Bing and Hotmail get a little more personal, but experts and IT professionals say that they're less worried about Microsoft regarding privacy than they are about some other high-profile vendors.

What Microsoft Knows

Microsoft starts collecting information on you and your system within minutes of you starting up a brand-new system. We asked Brendon Lynch, senior director of privacy strategy at Microsoft, to help us compile a step-by-step explanation of what Microsoft knows and when it knows it.

The flow begins when you first start your system, log on to Windows and go through the WAT validation process.


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