Microsoft promises increased transparency and control over data it collects

Surface Go LTE
Surface Go LTE (Image credit: Windows Central)

Microsoft this week unveiled a trio of steps it is taking to increase both transparency and control over the data it collects. In an April 30 blog post (opens in new tab), Microsoft Corporate Vice President Julie Brill said that the company will now categorize the data it collects across all of its major products, while also bolstering its documentation to explain why it collects specific types of data (via OnMSFT).

In terms of categorization, Microsoft says it will now classify data it collects from devices as "required" or "optional." The required designation will be given to data Microsoft requires for features to work properly across its services. From Microsoft:

Required data includes things like the terms of a search query so we can return relevant search results, the IP address, type and version of your device so that we can provide connectivity to our cloud services and security patches that keep your experience safe and secure, and diagnostic data so that we can detect significant feature failures.

The optional category, meanwhile, will be used for data that isn't essential to the core experience of a service. Data collection included in the optional category can be disabled as customers see fit, depending on how they use a service.

In addition to categorization, Microsoft says it will keep its customer (opens in new tab) and enterprise (opens in new tab) sites updated with documentation that describes the data it collects in each category and why.

Finally, the company has introduced a new report that it will publish twice a year, highlighting any new required data collection and types of data it no longer collects. Each report, the company says, will also include explanations of the changes it has made.

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Dan Thorp-Lancaster

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl

  • Bring it on.
  • So you are ok with MS, Apple, or NSA spying on your mother/wife/daughter/sister with cameras?
  • Is this a joke? The OP actually said specifically no cameras.
  • LOL that was actually funny.
  • Well I definitely trust Microsoft, so I hope that they deliver such promise.
  • Why, though, does it take companies so long to work out customers want some control over their data? Why do companies almost universally have to discover this so far down the track? Is it that hard to catch on to?
  • Because we keep giving them data.
  • It's not what customers want that's changing anything its that the government is taking notice and acting. Facebook is flagging all its bad acts.
  • Sensational! I believe more transparency and control are key to increasing consumer confidence with data collection. Every consumer should have, let's call it a personal ledger, to audit for themselves what data is being collected on all levels. The closer we get to something like that, the better.
  • Transparency is great. What you get is not. We will get another legal gargan long unable to understand document that you will probably have to click accept when you log into your account every year or two. No one will read it, like they don't read the legal disclaimers now. Their actions are indeed nobal but ultimate means nothing to most consumers.
  • Hmmm. I read them all ... thoroughly. It doesn't take that long in the grand scheme of things and you are entering into an agreement. But I also read T&C on most things I consider relevant... Like financial accounts or something.
  • You are part of the 9% of people that actual read the agreements according to a 2017 study conducted by Deloitte. So trying to get the rest of the 91% to actually read these will never happen.