Cortana for Windows Phone 8.1 gets privacy prioritized with ‘Notebook’ feature

With Windows Phone 8.1 only five weeks out, there’s not too much left to revealed, except one big feature: Cortana.

The digital voice assistant to rival Apple’s Siri and Google’s Now service is expected to premier with Windows Phone 8.1, and while a few facts have leaked out so far, the Verge has now gone into more detail about Cortana, including its Notebook core.

According to the Verge's Tom Warren, Cortana will have a ‘Notebook feature’ that stores “location data, behaviors, personal information, reminders, and contact information”, but only as the user allows. This is to ensure that privacy takes priority over efficiency of the assistant, meaning Cortana won’t collect, store or use information about you without your consent. Indeed, information can reportedly be edited or even deleted later by the user.

That’s certainly throwing down the gauntlet against Google, who don’t have such restrictions or control on Android.

Other details about Cortana confirm our earlier report about it having a “personality”, represented as a bouncing ball with emotions to reflect current inquiries. From our earlier report, we heard Cortana described like this:

“The personality of Cortana is currently represented by a circle graphic that expresses what it's doing (searching, identifying music à la the current Bing music listener built into Windows Phone, etc.) by various animations like spinning, flipping, etc.  …more animations [have] come in over time, and the color is based on your theme color.”

Regarding some behavior, the Verge notes that Cortana will offer “guidance on weather, stocks, directions, appointments, and music that’s contextual based on location and other data”. Likewise, it is also confirmed that Cortana will act upon incoming messages, email and other alerts, offering to lend assistance.  This feature was described to us earlier by a source familiar with Microsoft’s plans:

“For example, let's say I send you an SMS that says like "Want to get dinner tomorrow in Seattle?" You'll see parts of that text message underlined. Click that and you'll be able to instantly enter the info into your calendar with some of those fields already populated. So it would fill "Seattle" as the location, if I had said a time it will already have the time there.”

Finally, the Verge also reveals a very useful feature for your favorite acquaintances

“An "inner circle" of contacts will allow Cortana to manage notifications and phone calls during "quiet hours" when notifications are muted.”

Powered by Bing and Foursquare – amongst the initial services – Cortana as introduced in April will be just the beginning of this new Microsoft tool. From that point, Redmond will have to expand Cortana to other areas, including Windows 8, Xbox, in addition to adding services or improving contextual search and behaviors.

Regarding the name, currently the beta SDK only refers to the function as ‘Cortana’. But as unearthed in the MUI strings for voice commands, users will actually be able to name their voice assistant, making the matter a bit moot for the average consumer.

Windows Phone 8.1 will reportedly be revealed during Build on April 2.

Source: The Verge

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • I will always allow. Let them keep watch over me. I am clean.
  • And you are a fool. The definition of "clean" continuously changes at the will of the government.
  • Riiiight... Because the USA is known for human rights violations on par with most police states... Give me a break. And stop toting around that tin foil hat.
  • Aww you're so cute, so innocent.
  • Ya... because the US would never throw people into make-shift internment camps based upon race, or act against certain religious or a-religious groups unfairly, or act against its own people as a way to justify going into war... Sure, we are not as bad as the liberal left would like us to think we are... but at the same time we have done some pretty awful things in the past. As technology grows so much faster than society's maturity it only means that potential dark days of the future will only be more efficient at carrying out horrible ideas. Hopefully we would never do anything so horrible to our own people, but let's at least not make it easy.
  • Actually, as a card-carrying member of the "liberal left" I must say, the government has turned out to be quite a bit worse than my ilk imagined.
  • Bravo!
  • But I'm not a part of any racial or religious group they would target. So, it's probably pretty safe to let cortana track me.  The real worry for me would be someone hacking into the database and using the info to steal from me.
  • Not saying anything about Cortana tracking, but specificly to your comment:
    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Socialist.
    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.
    -Pastor Martin Niemöller
  • Bravisimo!!
  • Who were "they" The Socialist? LMAO FYI it is the socialists that want more power to the central government and more regulations to the people. They quote was modified for a reason. Twisted it 180 degrees.  
  • They are tracking everything we do anyways... sad face. So, let a AI track us and become self aware!
  • You put too much trust in the government. It's a slippery slope.
  • I work for DoD, and I can tell you that I don't trust the government.  When you see how the sausage is made.....
  • But if you work for the government how can we trust that you don't trust the government? ...
  • Such ignorance. It is completely irrelevant, to the privacy discussion, how 'clean' you are. I am glad to see Microsoft's continued efforts to protect user privacy. I could not care less about goverment using my data, they have most of it anyway, but I do care about corporations making money off of my personal data, by selling it to whomever they like, and jamming adverts and spam down my throat.      
  • ^This guy gets it.
  • +1. That's my only concern and youhearmeroar said it right. I don't give a damn if the government knows I order my beans from Tesco. But I don't want Microsoft to recommend me iBeans that are £5 expensive per can but are licked by Siri.
  • Exactly!
  • I think people in the UK care less about the government using our data. Probably cos we're used to being monitored all the time. I personally don't really see the fuss about it.
  • This tactic is exactly as they have planned it. Familiarity = acceptance = support.
  • I am from India. And my government is not watching me actually. It was Pun, guys!!
  • We havr CMS watching us man...
  • No matter how "clean" you are, you innocently search for a bomberman game or jägerbomb cocktail, just expect a knock at the door :P
  • With a proxy ip of Taliban. Haha.
  • Lol I love how your simple and playful comment got over blown lol! #TeamAlwaysAllow
  • Same! How do peeps expect a full experience if Cortana knows nothing about you???
  • Exactly! I love tech too much to put limits on it our of some fear of the government knocking on my door.
  • It better be cooler than the office assistant paperclip!
  • You are clean when, and only when, they say you are clean!
  • Cotana muaahh :)
  • Did you misspell that on purpose?
  • Lol
  • This could be interesting..hopeful it can actually answer my questions properly unlike Siri.
  • Well, Siri was right on a number of occasions. For instance: "What is the best smartphone?" Siri: "Nokia Lumia 920" #priceless (remember that one?)
  • I remember, that was classic. Didn't Apple patch that question in the end?
  • Yes they did! I remember tricking my IOS friends into doing that! Now I think it just gives a generic "choose your own adventure" answer.
  • Wait, what? Why didn't I hear about this?
  • Bing it!
  • That smacks of anti-competition to me. Will they patch all questions related to product categories they play in? :)
  • For real?
  • Nope.. Cortana detects when u r in the examination hall from your calendar and date and time settings and shows u the tongue before turning off completely.
  • First!  Cortana, show me the money!  Amazing feature, I hate the fact that Google Voice will have to know everything I do, thank god Cortana doesn't need to know what adult films I watch.
  • So what? Google Now knows you watched the notebook. No biggy. :P
  • More like at least fourth ... are 'first' comments making a comeback on WP Central? I thought they had died a deserved death.
  • Maybe its a holiday in school tomorrow?
  • One does not simply post a 'first' comment.
  • What if I told you first comments never died.
  • I don't always post the first comment, but when I do I always male sure it's relevant.
  • =D +920
  • Good move, to prioritize privacy is important and quite the opposite of some other actors which name should never be mentioned...
  • Wow
  • This is very awesome to hear, but now I'm afraid there will be little new information at Build and people will say that Windows Phone 8.1 is "nothing exciting, or new" since they heard all the features weeks beforehand.
  • There may not be "new" information, but if they release 8.1 @ Build, complete with Cortana and a full SDK, that'd be enough, i'm sure, to make up for the lack in new information. Plus, seeing Cortana in action, along with Smart Search, will be new, and those are probably the two biggest features.
  • This is more of a preview, at Build, they can get the main stage and show everything off. ;D
  • That moment when Joe Belfiore shows all of the features during the demo on stage, there will be enough exciting response, trust me ;)
  • I can't wait!!
  • I will be watching live if at all possible.
  • Isn't Joe now on the IE Team? If so, doesn't that mean he will not be the presenter?
  • To see everything come together at BUILD will be news itself. The leaks have all been positively received, but everyone wants to see it in action. Hopefully there will be new partnerships, apps, and features to surprise us.
  • I can't wait. \( ^〇^ )/   I really like the current TellMe, but this looks like it could blow current assistants out of the water (and into next year)! I really hope it's as good as it is to be believed once it's launched with Windows Phone 8.1!
  • +1. This could be the feature that prompts me to upgrade.
  • I bet Joe B. is under pressure already. Things will freeze on stage, he will change phones and that will make the headlines. Not that WP is now on par with others and its no more catching up.
  • Tbh, a digital assistant with a personality sounds horrible. I don't need it to be my friend.
  • Well some people do, I have no friends );
  • Why don't we have a like button here?!
  • Then don't use it?
  • i wish people would just stop with that irrelevant comment. can you please name an alternative on windows phone for me? or are you telling me to use an iphone or android phone instead?  i would very much like a digital assistant for windows phone, just leave the personality out.
  • Could you further explain the problem with Cortana having a personality? I don't see how it effects your use of the service.
  • it would "affect" my use because i would find it annoying. however, as it is still a while from release, i guess that remains to be seen.
  • Would you rather listen to a robotic monotone voice talking back to you all day, or something that is more natural. I don't know about you but I'll take the second option :)
  • Same... And I'm sure most people would agree.
  • that all depends on what they mean by "personality". please don't put words in my mouth.
  • How do you imagine an AI service? Honestly with a non-argumentative tone, I can't really imagine it without a personality
  • Blame Apple then, and look how Siri's been doing so far.
  • You just ask her not to be your friend! but I guess you wouldn't want her to be your enemy either :p
  • it would be awesome if the AI was good enough to figure that out lol
  • I m communist i treat all as equals.
  • Cortana, what does Marcellus Wallace look like?
  • Cortana: Does he look like a b**ch?
  • Cortana, what??
  • Clever implementation. Looks to be a winning feature.
  • Wowee!! Holly crap!! This is big, huge. Someone pinch me, no, kick me!
  • You got it!
  • What is your address?
  • I'll be there in a minute
  • I'm looking forward to hearing how well she will clash with Croatian language, not unlike the current speech lady residing in my phone. :) It's a real treat listening to her trying to pronounce some contact's name, for example my cousin's last name, Rakigjija. Providing, of course, Microsoft releases Cortana to all, with the big caveat "Cortana speaks English, don't rape her with your heathen Slavic guttural sounds!" :D
  • Lol
  • Married into croation family. You guys have some hard ass words
  • Aaaaah! Croatia is such a beautiful place!
  • So no details yet on when or whether it will be available worldwide or restricted to ,ahem,certain locations for now ?
  • You can make a good guess though.. My bet is on just USA release to start, then a year or two later we will start to see other regions aha... Same sort of thing happened with Xbox 360 Kinect voice. I'll be changing my region to US when Cortana is released.
  • I already have, I prefer the US Bing experience.
  • Good call. Same on my surface.
  • You get no Bing experience as none of local stuff gives any results. How do you even use it?
  • Mine does, I'm in little old New Zealand and I get local deals for places even next door. I get cinema times for Auckland theatres, I get New Zealand web search results. Everything but Local Scout, really.
  • From NZ also, I believe there are a couple of extra things that you miss out on I believe. I'm mainly concerned about Cortana. Definitely changing region for that.
  • They make is US and Uk only and I'm done. I'm from the uk but live in nz. They always forget that people MOVE.,let me set me language and have the feature. Already got a crippled xbone grrr
  • When you say its coming in 5 weeks is that reveal? When is the actual update out?
  • 5 weeks until developer release (hopefully)
  • Hopefully! Lol
  • Stocks--that should be interesting.  Bouncing around, flips, etc---reminds me of a paper clip in MS office that I once hated---what was it called--clipply?
  • Hopefully its more like Superintendent from ODST. It'll make perfect sense since they're both young AI (the phone version of cortana that is)
  • I LOVED clippy. Such a cute character!
  • Will Cortana make recommendations for helping me navigate through the wide world of pornography?
  • If she feels horny she will definetely.
  • I feel bad for all those bb10 users who had their pornographic exploits published to all their friends unknowingly..josh is watching sexy Asian man bukake lol
  • Lol, you should teach her
  • That would be awesome and a little bit creepy.
    "Cortana, I'm feeling horny."
    "Well, Chief, there are 3627 new videos on this week. Here is an amateur bondage video I think you might enjoy. Shall I load it up for you?"
    -a few minutes later in the middle of the video-
    "Wow, he is really putting it to her isn't he, Chief?"
  • Lol your comment made my day
  • Finally. This should would really bring Windows Phone on par with iOS 7 and Google Now. This is exactly what they already do. Hopefully Cortana can tell when I need to leave home or how traffic is on the way to work like iOS and Google Now. I would love to hear people reasons for not giving WP a chance now.
  • Mostly just specific apps is the big holdup for many.  That we know is continually improving.  And as the line for development blurs between W8/WP8 for the stores, the 3 screens/cloud foundation will really help propel the Windows platform as a compelling mobile ecosystem to many users.
  • Im gonna call her Mollie hahaha lol... But joking aside this is really good information and can't wait to 'see' it in action
  • Would call mine WIFE
  • Bad idea.. If u let your friends test it out.
  • Great addition for every singles out there..
  • Allowing users to name the assistant makes so much sense and is so appealing. If we can pick amalve voice mine will have to be either Jeeves or Carston.
  • Haha I might have to steal your idea there... If this naming thing is true, I was going to just call it Cortana for the novelty. However, with a male voice, Jeeves would be hilarious. "Jeeves, remind me I have a meeting later this evening"
  • If you do that then you have to make sure you use a posh British accent every time you use it in public :D
  • So doing that.. This is going to be fun.
  • I use a UK English voice for all my navigation apps and devices. It makes the voice prompts much easier to hear in a noisy US-based vehicle. I'd give Australian English a try if available. "Turn left now, mate!"
  • Lol! I'd prefer UK as well, being a New Zealander. But not sure if it's going to be available in UK language on release. At least we know US will work.
  • Yeah, good thing about NZ is that we're not fully adverse to using US language if it gets us more features :)
  • "Turn left now, ya cunt."
  • What about Bitterman?
  • I can't wait to see how Cortana will operate. I actually use the TellMe feature, so I'm a bit excited to see what features will be added.
  • I'll be on vacation at the time. Good for me.
  • A feature I think that would go even further with 'Cortana' offering assitance with incoming texts/emails, would be to suggest places for the said food or activity type in the SMS. For example, if I sent a text to a friend, "How about sushi tonight around 7PM?" Underlined words would be sushi, tonight and 7PM. Clicking on sushi would bring up a list of apps (HERE City Lens, Bing Food and Drink, etc.) to search for local sushi places. Clicking on either tonight or 7PM would bring up the calendar entry and if possible as an option, send the calendar/text reminder to my friend. And of course, having this type of assistance across all Windows powered devices is the ideal solution but I'm certain that by Windows 9 or 10, we could see this come to life.
  • Don't see why Cortana wont do that this year.
  • I like that we will be able to name the voice assistant.. Customization FTW!
  • April 2nd is getting closer!
  • 41 days to go
  • But only 9 days before my wife and I will be walking on a Florida beach for a week!
  • Relevance FTW ...
  • Are you retiring to Boca?
  • Boca is nice.
  • I can only wish we were retiring... ;-)
  • Good for you guys. Just make sure you pick a beach that's on the Gulf coast side versus the Atlantic and avoid Cocoa. :-)
  • We'll be in St Pete for five days, then a few days with friends that live in Lake Placid. Nice getaway from the snowpocalypse we had in Atlanta last week and two weeks before that. ;-)
  • Oh, last time I was in Cocoa was when I was stationed in Orlando while in US Naval Nuclear Power School. Used to go out that way on the weekends we were broke, because we could find something to do and do to Patrick AFB and eat lunch free. LOL we were such dweebs...
  • Lol
  • Im digging the Foursquare integration!
  • Can't wait for this. I'm glad they're giving us some control over it.
  • Why not to buy Cleverbot to improve Cortana?   Just Kidding :D
  • Any mention about Cortana using natural conversation and context? For example with siri you can ask about the weather in another city and then follow up with the question..."what about tomorrow?" and siri will know you are still asking about the weather in the city you already asked about.
  • A circle with personality.... Clippy got fat?
  • Haha! A+
  • Let's all call her Clippy.
  • ;-)
  • Cant.. She doesn't resemble a paper clip this time.. flippy for she flips
  • I will call it Jarvis
  • I was just thinking this too!
  • We are still lacking behind.They should hurry up with those updates. We are still playing catch up. We are going to get this update in two three months ahead,within those months Apple and Google will bring something very new and we will still lack behind. Microsoft should lead the innovation, not follow the innovation. They should have release all these features a year ago.
  • I think you'll find Cortana has been designed to leapfrog he competition, not just match it.
  • Pessimist, much?
  • Why not 10 years ago!
  • Everytime I read a post about WP 8.1 I feel like I can finally go tell all my friends, that are IOS and Android fanboys, to go suck it! I'm tired of them hating on WP.
  • +520
  • I'm so sorry.
  • Why?
  • Owning a 520. I mean they're a great price but...
  • It's a brilliant phone overall, between my 1020 and bro's 520....only pictures are the major difference
  • Well I'm happy for you, no sacasm intended. Personally I just wouldn't be able to handle the screen quality, RAM, screen size and body thickness/shape. But that's my opinion :)
  • I'm used to the 920 and honestly I also wouldn't be able to live with the screen size and quality.
  • Ditto.
  • Guys what if we don't have all the rumoured features in 8.1??
  • May Jen Taylor's voice come back to us... I was saddened by Halo 4's ending. :'(
  • One thing Cortana really needs is touch less control like the Moto X... "hey Cortana... "
  • Sounds unlikely at the moment... Rumors are saying Cortana will be accessed by the search button. Not too economical to have the mic on all the time anyway
  • I have the Moto X and that's how it works. I love my Nokia 920 but the battery on my Moto X lasts aaalll day.
  • I know the nexus 5 does the same thing, but yeah then anyone could just yell out "Okay Google" or whatever the prompt is. I mean I pretty much agree though, it would be neat. I would definitely use it like that. Just don't think it's likely.
  • That's actually not true. You can train it for your voice and it will only answer to your voice. It actually works.
  • Saw it with my own eyes. My friend with an Asian accent was able to activate and search for porn on my friend's (with an Indian accent) nexus.
  • "You CAN train it for your voice..." If you don't train it, yes, anyones can talk to it.
  • My apologies
  • I want my Cortana to respond only when I touch her. That's how intimate we want to me. Not just casual like "Okay Cortana.."
  • Congratulations to you who speaks English natively. For the rest of the world this feature is useless. I would be as exited as you if Cortana spoke Swedish..
  • Then encourage a Swedish company to lead the way and develop an operating system that catches on in the rest of the world, and starts with Sweden first apps and content.  Tack så mycket!
  • Language settings for Cortana have been found in the config files, so it seems like it's not being ruled out.
  • I concur. Ge oss svenska.
  • This and a whole bunch of other neglected languages. Kom igen Microsoft!
  • Btw if you guys search on YouTube "windows phone 8.1" and filter the results to this month, a user seems to have almost exactly what the verge said, a ball that mathes accent color that bounces. I'll try to add the link. Update:
  • That says 'concept video'. It's not real. Cortana is meant to be a small circular emoticon (about the size of the buttons on your app bar) at the top right of the screen.
  • The real giveaway is that he plans to catch the next train, which leaves in 12 minutes. Yet the map shows he won't make it in 12 minutes.
  • If I can change the bouncing ball into Clippy that would make my year
  • I still think they should bring Clippy to Office Online ... :D
  • Cortana is coming!!!   In the near future, she'll be able to be our girlfriend:  
  • So they basically took the plot of "Her" and baked it into Windows Phone 8.1. Not bad.
  • I loved Her. She was so real.
  • I hope it sounds just like Cortana...
  • Cant wait..
  • Will it be available outside the USA?
  • Sure:)
  • If I name it Eliza, will it ask me to elucidate and to talk about my mother?
  • Will this be native to the OS or an app like Ziggy?  I don't use ziggy because I have to launch it as an app if I want to use it.
  • Native of course.
  • We can name her? Nice. Am I the only one who will call her Moneypenny? Yup. I thought not :P
  • Wait..wait... Its completely online? Or has offline support?...any idea?
  • Cloud.
  • Lol
  • So who wants Cortana to call them "Chief"?
  • I will keep mines named Cortana
  • 5 weeks just 5 weeks to install 8.1 in my T-Mobile Nokia Lumia 810 -via dev program:)-.
  • Would be nice if you can save "your own username" I would like her to call me Daddy or Boss;D
  • Its rumored you can.
  • Looks hot
  • A bouncing ball with emotions? CONFIRMED: Microsoft bringing back parts of Microsoft Bob ;)
  • I just hope I can use Cortana with my device pin locked. What's the point of a voice assistant that needs you to take your phone out and unlock it? Makes nearly all the current Windows Phone 8.0 voice commands totally useless except "call"
  • People are blind google police brutality I'm sure you will see clearly what has taken place in the last ten years
  • We can name Cortana.. Awesome. 
    I'll name her "B*tch".. :P :P Like "Yo b*tch get me a coffee."
  • And she'll reply you back "yo fool, I ain't no biya*h and I ain't getting you nada, you ain't getting nothing." lol.
  • Man, It's gonna be fun talking to her.. :D And yeah that's a bit sad too.. :(
  • I am just waiting for this eagerly to show this to all those Android and I phone assholes friends of mine who keep teasing me that Wp is nothing.After this update their eyes will pop out.
  • Me too... Im waiting for the day when I can show how my LAGDROID friends can just suck it.
  • sounds cute but MSFT lacks a lot of the geolocation data google does after decades of neglect. you see it all the time: google's fleet is 10X or more bigger than MSFT's because google cares to gather all that mapping data...MSFT is just mediocre. It is not a question of money, it's a question of priorities. Google has a high priority goal of mapping everything....msft, is happy with seattle only.
  • 'Build' April 2..its my B.Day ^_^
  • I'm a simple man. I just want my phone to know my email address when I start typing. Ever time I type ny email the auto correct suggests everything but my email address.