Microsoft provides privacy dashboard ahead of Windows 10 launch

Microsoft gave its privacy policy and service agreement a facelift Thursday, and offered users a new central clearinghouse to manage privacy settings for all the data the company keeps about them.

The newly-minted privacy dashboard (included in the Security and Privacy section of Microsoft’s account administration page) gives users links to control data stored for personalizing their experience on Bing, what apps and services use their information, whether Microsoft personalizes ads for them and whether the company can market to them via email. It’s part of a move by the company to unify and simplify most of its service agreements and privacy policies for various products under one document.

Horatio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s deputy general counsel, wrote in a blog post that the changes were aimed at creating “straightforward terms and policies that people can easily understand.” The new Microsoft Services Agreement, which goes into effect on August 1, covers most of the company’s consumer services, including Bing, Cortana, and Xbox Live.

The updates to Microsoft’s policies don’t seem to radically change anything that was previously there. The company reorganized both documents, and combined multiple services, so it’s nearly impossible to make a direct comparison, but there don’t seem to be any surprises hiding in the agreements. The biggest change appears to be the simplification of the language that the agreements use in order to make it easier to read for people who aren’t lawyers.

Like the company’s current services agreement, the new one includes a dispute resolution clause that prohibits users from bringing class action lawsuits and requires them to bring individual disputes in either small claims court or before binding arbitration. Clauses like that have become increasingly popular among tech companies, with firms like Amazon, Netflix and even Snapchat including them in their terms of service agreements.

Microsoft’s Privacy Statement also got a facelift, with some changes to allow new services in Windows 10. Like the service agreement, it will kick in on August 1 for most users, though some new services in the Windows 10 beta will operate under the updated policy before then. In the case of those services, the people who use them will be notified which policy applies.

The timing of Microsoft’s announcement was hardly coincidental: the new service agreement will take effect for most people the day after Windows 10 launches. The changes in the operating system, like the inclusion of the company’s virtual assistant Cortana, would have led Microsoft to update its policies anyway, even if the company didn’t simplify them.

Consolidating the privacy policies and simplifying the terms in service agreements isn’t really anything new in the tech sector: Google updated its privacy policy in 2012 to bring more than 70 different documents into one central agreement. More recently, the Mountain View-based company put a user’s privacy and security information into one place in their Google account.