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Microsoft promises no snooping in new fine print for web services

They've even thought of the children and how to make you responsible for them

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Microsoft has updated its Services Agreement, the legalese almost nobody bothers to read before clicking “I Agree” when signing up for online services.

The changes are notable because Microsoft has been critical of Google's fine print in the “Scroogled” campaign pointing out that rival ad-slinging-based-on-search-results outfit Google customises advertising after rifling through all sorts of personal data. Redmond, in an FAQ about its new agreement, points out that “we do not use what you say in email, chat, video calls, or voice mail to target advertising to you. Nor do we use your documents, photos, or other personal files to target advertising to you.”

Which is nice, given the agreement covers “Bing, MSN, Outlook.com (formerly Hotmail), OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive), Microsoft account, Family Safety, Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Writer, Office.com, Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium, Microsoft Office 365 University, and other Microsoft Office–branded services that link to the agreement through a supplemental agreement.”

The breadth of services covered may, however, be a worry inasmuch as a new clause 1.5 makes parents responsible for their kids actions online.

Here's the clause in full:

“By using the Services, you represent that you have either reached the age of 'majority' where you live or have valid parent or legal guardian consent to be bound by the terms of this Agreement. If you don't know whether you have reached the age of majority where you live, or don't understand this section, please don't create an account before you have asked your parent or legal guardian for help. If you're the parent or legal guardian of a minor that creates an account, you accept this Agreement on the minor’s behalf and are responsible for all use of the accounts or Services, including purchases, whether the minor’s account is now open or created later.”

Informal legal advice sought by Vulture South suggests the clause might be tricky to enforce: it's hard to bind a third party to a contract without their consent, even if the person signing up is a minor for whom an adult is legally responsible.

Microsoft has also created new new privacy statements for many of its online properties, along with a portal of sorts linking to them. Redmond is proud that all are now written in plain English.

There's also rather obvious links to opt-out services, for those who want Redmond to stop slinging ads altogether.

If Microsoft's services direct new users to these statements, there's a chance they will actually stop to read the legalese, which is brief, crisply written and pleasantly laid out. Your move, Google et al. ®

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