Microsoft has updated the terms to which users must agree if they want to use Hotmail, SkyDrive, Bing, MSN, Office.com and a number of other software and services.
The update apparently gives Microsoft more flexibiity to use its customers’ content as it moves to increasingly integrate its products and services.
In its updated terms of service, Microsoft says:
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. For example, we may occasionally use automated means to isolate information from email, chats, or photos in order to help detect and protect against spam and malware, or to improve the services with new features that makes them easier to use. When processing your content, Microsoft takes steps to help preserve your privacy.
An attorney writing for VentureBeat took a look at some of the changes, saying:
The previous version of the agreement allowed Microsoft to use your content “solely to the extent necessary to provide the service”. The revised agreement allows Microsoft to use your content to “provide, protect and improve” all “Microsoft products and services”. …. In the announcement email, Microsoft alludes to this change. It says that its “cloud services” are being designed “to be highly integrated across many Microsoft products”.
Microsoft is not alone in allowing data sharing across its various products. Google’s terms of service contains a similar clause. … But this change has substantial privacy implications. It means that personal information that previously could only be used for the limited purpose of providing a single service can now be shared throughout the Microsoft corporate structure.
The updated terms of service also includes the stipulation that customers must resolve any dispute by informal negotiation or in small claims court — and if those methods don’t work, the customer must agree to binding arbitration. That means users will not have the option of bringing either an individual lawsuit or joining in a class action lawsuit before a judge or jury.
According to Microsoft’s updated terms of service:
If you and Microsoft don’t resolve any dispute by informal negotiation or in small claims court, any other effort to resolve the dispute will be conducted exclusively by binding arbitration as described in this section. You are giving up the right to litigate (or participate in as a party or class member) all disputes in court before a judge or jury.
Microsoft began updating many of its user agreements earlier this year to forbid participation in class action lawsuits.
Tim Fielden, assistant general counsel at Microsoft, had written earlier this year that many companies have adopted this approach since the U.S. Supreme Court permitted it in a 2011 decision.