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Microsoft awards itself Google-esque power over Hotmail, SkyDrive etc

We can do stuff with your stuff 'to the extent necessary'

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Microsoft has tweaked its fine print so it can reuse its users' photos, emails and chat messages to polish its online services.

The new terms-of-use agreement was rolled out late last week. It grants Microsoft the right to use information gathered from Hotmail, Photo Gallery, Office.com and SkyDrive accounts in a manner it sees fit to “improve the services with new features that makes them easier to use”. Before, the software giant had simply reserved the right to handle punters' content to provide a service.

It is reminiscent of Google's terms'n'conditions shake-up that brought users of its individual services under one roof, in terms of privacy and data sharing, so that the advertising giant could tap into a wealth of information on each punter.

Microsoft's updated red tape also extends the policy first introduced to Windows in May that bans customers from banding together to form class-action lawsuits against the company.

The new wording here says:

When you upload your content to the services, you agree that it may be used, modified, adapted, saved, reproduced, distributed, and displayed to the extent necessary to protect you and to provide, protect and improve Microsoft products and services.

For example, we may occasionally use automated means to isolate information from email, chats, or photos in order to help detect and protect against spam and malware, or to improve the services with new features that makes them easier to use.

The old service agreement here, had said:

You understand that Microsoft may need, and you hereby grant Microsoft the right, to use, modify, adapt, reproduce, distribute, and display content posted on the service solely to the extent necessary to provide the service.

The agreement covers users of Microsoft's Hotmail, SkyDrive, Windows Live Messenger, Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Mail Desktop, Writer, Bing, MSN, and Office.com. The new wording suggests the company may gleam information from, say, a picture gallery account to customise or massage search results from Bing. The company has already added social-network juice by mixing in data from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Quora to search results. Bing search has already been added to Hotmail.

Users of Hotmail were alerted to the changes on 30 August, just ahead of the long Labor Day holiday weekend in the US. The new policy comes into effect on 19 October. ®

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