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

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, and SkyDrive accounts in a manner it …


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  1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    I missed that fine point on the thread.

    I've had a hotmail address since before MS bought it. Time for it to go, I think.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I missed that fine point on the thread.

      Point 3.1 in the service agreement states though that "Your content remains your content" which to me sounds better than most of the others, especially google who claim ownership of anything you upload, or is that a web urban myth?

      Hotmail seems to of improved quite considerably in recent years, I get maybe 4 pieces of junk mail a day which is always in the junk mail folder, the calendar, contacts and reminders are nice functions. I had a brief read through the T&C's at the weekend and nothing seems to bad, but who knows, I'm not a lawyer and also have a creeping suspicion I am becoming a bit of a Microsoft fan as I am looking forward to their tablets.

      1. Craigness

        Re: I missed that fine point on the thread.

        Google don't claim ownership. There was an urban myth which was started when Docs was renamed Drive. The section to look at is "You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours. When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide licence to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works..."

        The first 2 sentences were ignored, the 3rd was spread around the world with accompanying remarks to suggest Google is a criminal conspiracy.

    2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

      Re: I missed that fine point on the thread.

      Go where exactly?

      You want something for free when there is no free lunch.

    3. TrishaD

      Re: I missed that fine point on the thread.

      In spite of what Mr Gumby says, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc have never provided a free lunch. Take a look at the right hand of your screen and what do you see? Advertising material.

      The model of alleged free services has always been that access is given at a price. That price being bloody adverts.

      Data mining wasnt part of the deal. It now is.

      Buy a domain, run your own email, and tell Hotmail to sod off for moving the goalposts. Or accept data mining of course

      1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

        @Trisha DRe: I missed that fine point on the thread.

        You're right, its not exactly a free lunch.

        I'm probably like most people where I instinctively ignore the adverts and forget that they exist.

        But the point I am making still stands.

        Where else are you going to get any mail service for "free" (meaning you don't get charged any money) that doesn't snoop?

        The data they get from snooping on you probably makes them more money that they get from the adverts.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Modify your uploaded content to protect you ? WTF ?

    Sounds pretty creepy to me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Modify your uploaded content to protect you ? WTF ?

      Could mean taking a whole load of emails from various customers, anonymising the content (somehow?) and then using them to test spam filters.


      It could mean taking a load of emails and then analysing for discussions about buying stuff for use in triggering adverts.

      Where the former is preferablte to the latter.

    2. David 164 Bronze badge

      Re: Modify your uploaded content to protect you ? WTF ?

      Probably just Microsoft legal cover to optimise images an may be virus scan anything uploaded to its servers, an check for anything that looks like you are sharing copyright material from skydrive.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And this is why I never us MS services, and only use Gmail as a temporary drop box. You simply can't trust them.

    1. Test Man

      Do you also post via carrier pigeon or use smoke signals?

      1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

        "Do you also post via carrier pigeon or use smoke signals?"

        I thought Carrier Pigeons were extinct?

        (They say pigeons are practically chicken.. ;-)

        As to smoke signals... it depends on what you are smoking to help generate the smoke for the signals. ;-)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          @Ian M G... Maybe you're thinking of the Passenger pigeon? I don't think that carrier pigeons are anything except trained pigeons, effectively a normal homing pigeon.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I just use hotmail for email. Absolutely nothing else. And I am sure if MS want to start dipping into the *content* of peoples emails IMs, they'll be asked to have a chat with various data protection organisations around the world. After all, the Royal Mail don't open peoples letters to "improve the service", do they ?

    1. The Mole

      Re: *Shrug*

      Actually Royal Mail can open letters if the letter is undeliverable because the address is illegible or similar then they are allowed to open it to find a return address and will return it to the original sender. I don't know if they still do this but they have the power to do so- now they probably just deliver the letters to a hedge somewhere..

      1. Wize

        Re: *Shrug*

        Yes, they open undeliverable ones.

        They don't routinely open letters, read them, stuff in some adverts related to your message and fire it off to the recipient.

        Nor will they keep copies of any photos you send in such letters to use in their own adverts.

        1. h4rm0ny

          Re: *Shrug*

          "They don't routinely open letters, read them, stuff in some adverts related to your message and fire it off to the recipient."

          The do, however, ask you to pay for their service.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: *Shrug*

          @Wize: They do, through print adverts in the postmark sometimes. A bit like putting an advert next to your email.

      2. Graham Marsden

        @The Mole: Re: *Shrug*

        Royal Mail can only open letters or parcels in the National Returns Centre in Belfast, they are supposed to make a good effort to either deliver or return the item, but there have been examples of eg a £10,000 painting (sent by AirSure) being flogged off for £20 at auction!

  5. dssf


    IT STINKS! I think it is time to go back and re-edit ALL my photos with copyright, and embed unflattering micro images that will land ms, facebook, and google in embarrassment if they recirculate the for profit. I'll also embed in them watermarks denying commercial reuse without compensation, and prohibit redistribution in the open for anything other than maintaining continuity of service between me and the INTENDED recipients. Last time I thought or checked, other than the companies actually doing ROUTING of my stuff, commercial firms are not generally intended recipients of my messages or photos.

    Also, time to plainly append all my posts with "text and pictures only for consumption or use by named, intended recipients, not tributary sites or business partners of site hosts nor site hosts. Watermark removal, editing, or masking is FORBIDDEN! Unauthorized redisplay, even with atttribution, for commercial purposes, is PROHIBITED. EARN your income, don't WHORE your way to income!"

    I guess well see google making it hard to find .apks for watermarking tools for phones and tablets. Hell, we cannot even find FREE ones that actually WORK anymore. In 2004, my Sharp V-402SH had the ability to insert the date, time, and bits of text. Do phones or tablets even come with that functionality?

    1. corrodedmonkee

      Re: SOUNDS?

      Didn't that get mostly superseded by EXIF data?

    2. Wize

      Re: SOUNDS?

      Got lots of family photos stuck on there should my house catch fire and I lose them all.

      Guess now I'll have to wipe them and upload encrypted files instead.

      And a few images that may offend them (no, not that kind of photo. I'm talking of advertising the opposition) should any automated system try to snaffle them.

      I bet Hawaii 5-O even get upset at their crime scene photos being reused.

      If they are doing it with photos, are they going to use your documents too? Going to be plenty of industry confidential ones on there.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: SOUNDS?

      There's actually a massive case pending re copyright - give it a couple of weeks and all hell will break lose in that area. Will be very amusing to watch from the sidelines..

  6. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

    use your images for promotion?

    So everybody is Everywhere Girl now? What a bunch of cheapskates.

  7. Kevin Johnston Silver badge

    A little smug here....

    as I run my own mail server, doesn't need much in the way of hardware/software and you can pick up a domain for peanuts. I know that makes it more expensive than Hotmail/Google/Yahoo etc etc but at least what is on it is mine. Can access it fine through a web browser so can read my mail from anywhere.

    Saw the way this was all going a while back and have not regretted the effort to do it plus being in IT I have no excuse for not being able to put it together.

    If you want the safety net of storing your data somewhere else then look for companies offering hosted servers and dump secure copies to them.

  8. ShelLuser

    No need to worry IMO.

    Of course we should be weary when it comes to stuff like this, but the license agreement is IMO a lot better than others. And I also think people search too much into this.

    First of all its important to determine who owns the material you upload. Microsoft is very specific here:

    "Content includes anything you upload to, store on, or transmit through the services, such as data, documents, photos, video, music, email, and instant messages (“content”). Except for material that we license to you that may be incorporated into your own content (such as clip art), we do not claim ownership of the content you provide on the services. Your content remains your content, and you are responsible for it.".

    Simply put; I always keep copyright on the contents I upload and store on MS' services. As such Microsoft simply cannot use such material for other purposes than those provided by the service I'm using. If they would they'd violate their own policy which grants me full ownership and copyright.

    Then the dreaded paragraph mentioned by the article:

    "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."

    I hope we all /do/ realize that if Microsoft creates a backup of my material they're basically reproducing it. If Microsoft puts my material onto a backup service to make sure everything continues to work they're basically (re)distributing it. When I upload pictures and one of MS services changes the resolution from, say 2048x1536 to 1024x768 then they're changing the content.

    What I also consider very reassuring is the section which explains the "Can Microsoft remove contents from the services":

    "Yes. We may ask you to remove your content from the services if it violates this agreement or the law. Failure to comply may result in loss of access to, or cancellation of, the services or your Microsoft account. Additionally, Microsoft may remove your content without asking you if we determine it's in violation of this agreement or the law, or if we receive a notice of intellectual property infringement from a third party."

    I don't see this as anything intrusive at all to be honest. All I'm seeing here is Microsoft covering themselves and rightfully so.

    But most of all... Will Microsoft disclose my personal information to others? You know; like Google basically does; using my information to allow others to target me with specific advertising. Well, they won't:

    "You consent and agree that Microsoft may access, disclose, or preserve information associated with your use of the services, including (without limitation) your personal information and content, or information that Microsoft acquires about you through your use of the services (such as IP address or other third-party information) when Microsoft forms a good faith belief that doing so is necessary (a) to comply with applicable law or to respond to legal process from competent authorities; (b) to enforce this agreement or protect the rights or property of Microsoft or our customers; or (c) to help prevent a loss of life or serious physical injury to anyone."

    I actually applaud this. Especially section (c) is something I can fully support and I think it shows a little bit of the reasoning behind their policies that they explicitly included this section. They could have simply limited themselves with "We'll follow the law" but instead decide to go the extra mileage.

    So quite frankly; I don't think its fair to compare these policies to those of Google.

    1. Craigness

      Re: No need to worry IMO.

      Compare to Google if you like, they're practically the same wording.

    2. mhenriday

      Compare to Google ?

      Why not ? Here below the relevant paragraph from Google Terms of Service ( :

      Your Content in our Services

      Some of our Services allow you to submit content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.

      When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps). Some Services may offer you ways to access and remove content that has been provided to that Service. Also, in some of our Services, there are terms or settings that narrow the scope of our use of the content submitted in those Services. Make sure you have the necessary rights to grant us this license for any content that you submit to our Services.

      You can find more information about how Google uses and stores content in the privacy policy or additional terms for particular Services. If you submit feedback or suggestions about our Services, we may use your feedback or suggestions without obligation to you.

      In what way do these stipulations differ materially from those of the Microsoft ToS (which are, of course, copied from the former) described in the article ? Allowing one's content to «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» provides MS with all the latitude it requires «to target [you] with specific advertising» under the guise of «improv[ing] Microsoft products and services». Nothing in the paragraph you cite concerning when «Microsoft may access, disclose, or preserve information associated with your use of the services, including (without limitation) your personal information and content» hinders the company in any way from providing such information to advertisers and therewith «improving your Hotmail experience». Either you are naive, or you have an interest in falsely presenting MS as a less intrusive alternative to Google. It is not....


      1. hugh wanger

        Re: Compare to Google ?


        I'll compare for you.

        Google will retain private data about you in the Googleplex. Social security number, phone numbers, addresses, friends, all your online shopping orders - could be anything, and is usually _everything_

        You can test this for yourself by signing up to services. Deleting your account and looking at destinations on Google maps to be amazed that Google still knows all about you :)

        Google could get a lot more goodwill on the privacy front by allowing you to remove your data. The trouble is, internally they splatter your data around between services so liberally that its a practical issue - if not an ethical one.

        On paid services, MS do not scan all your email. On Office 365 for example they don't scan your messages.

        Gmail DOES still scan messages (or at least partial parts of messages - try getting a honest answer out of Google - I want to see how you get on with that )

        Suggesting that MS behave as Google do is laughable. MS are in the Forbes top 20 for ethical companies.

        Google will never be there :)

        Google worry the bejasus out of me. I'll take MS over Google any time in that regard.

  9. Dave 15 Silver badge

    Can't do a class action....

    I wonder. I didn't think you could legally 'sign' something (and certainly not just have the terms changed under your feet or be bullied into accepting new conditions so you can access your own data) that prevented you being able to legally protect or sue for compensation. I just don't think any such attempt by microsoft or any others would stand up to a single or class action challenge in a UK court for more than a nano second - and given the UK courts (just like the government) are already bent over and waiting to be taken by anything the Americas say I suspect it would be pretty hard to make these conditions stick anywhere in the rest of the world

    Kind of begs the question why make yourself unpopular with such things?

    1. Test Man

      Re: Can't do a class action....

      Doesn't the class action "restriction" only apply to the US though?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Honestly, the timing is so perfect, I must go and check my office for bugs of the electronic kind (we keep the other ones in the kitchen in an effort to appear organised).

    Stay tuned (maybe even this week), because El Reg will get the premiere..

  11. Arachnoid
    Thumb Down

    Royal mail do actually append ink based advertising to some mail or at least they used to before the advent of the flyer bombs that now come through the door even when theres no mail.

  12. cmaurand

    This is why you don't use the cloud

    If your data is in the cloud, is it yours? Apparently not. There is no security or privacy in the cloud. Now can you imagine what they're doing with corporate data?

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