What Does Microsoft Know About You? [telecom]

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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