Microsoft Edge has had Bing Chat within the Sidebar for a while now, but a recent story about how the browser handles your data has made its way around the web. A piece claiming that Microsoft Edge may use browsing data to personalize Bing Chat AI by International Business Times gained traction this past weekend. Unfortunately, the article has some issues that could cause confusion and concern among Edge users.
First and foremost, there is no "may" about it. Microsoft can and will use your data to improve Bing Chat. But the company will ask your permission before doing so. Within Edge's Settings is a subsection of the Sidebar section that focuses on Copilot. You'll see an option to "allow Microsoft to access page content." There's also a link to an entire support document on the topic.
That page was archived on August 15, 2023, but it's likely been around for longer than that. The point is that Microsoft has clearly documented how it handles data for Bing Chat and Edge.
When does Microsoft Edge use my data?
Additionally, this isn't a feature that's solely in testing among Edge Canary users. As far as I can tell, Microsoft included data-sharing options when it launched Bing within the Sidebar. That makes sense as the company follows data protection laws. You could also credit the move to Microsoft caring about your privacy, but even a cynical user needs to be aware that Microsoft has given you the option to share data or not from the get-go.
Here's what Microsoft has to say on the matter:
"Microsoft Edge determines what data to send to Bing Chat based on the user's query and their consent to share data with Microsoft. For questions that don't need browsing context, such as "Help me plan a trip to Cannon Beach", Microsoft Edge shares the URL, page title, user's query, and previous conversation history to help Bing Chat answer their query effectively.
For questions that need browsing context, [e.g. when the user asks Bing Chat to summarize a large page of text], Microsoft Edge will seek permission from the user to access page information. When the user gives permission to share page information, Microsoft Edge will send the full browsing context in addition to the users' query and previous conversation history to Bing Chat to help generate a meaningful response."
That same document also outlines how long Microsoft keeps conversation data and runs through the company's other data policies.
Is Microsoft Edge collecting data?
Microsoft has made several questionable moves about its browser over the years. Just this morning, I covered how Edge now shows a survey when you try to download Google Chrome. That's an actual concern in my book. However, collecting data to enhance Bing Chat doesn't fall in the same category.
Edge will show a prompt the first time Bing Chat wants to use your browser data. You can then say yes or no. If you ever change your mind, you can hop into the browser's settings and change it with a single click.
If you give Bing Chat in the Edge Sidebar permission to use your data, the tool will be more powerful. For example, Bing Chat can scan a webpage you're on and summarize its contents.
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Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at firstname.lastname@example.org.