Markey Expresses Concern about Microsoft Tracking/Marketing

Letter Comes as Company Preps to Launch New Explorer with Default Do Not Track
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Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is concerned about Microsoft's new privacy policy changes and has asked the company to better explain them to him.

In a letter Monday following a story in The New York Times about the changes, Markey said he was concerned about the privacy implications of allowing the company to follow users across

Web services like Hotmail and Bing, collect personal information, then use it to target advertising.

"I am concerned about the privacy and security implications of Microsoft's new policy of aggregating information about consumers across a suite of Microsoft services, stitching together detailed, in-depth consumer profiles," Markey wrote in the letter to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

He acknowledged, and praised, Microsoft's announced default do not track setting in its new Explorer 10 browser, which would presumably include no tracking across Microsoft products, either, but Markey still has questions about the impact of the new policy and how it dovetails with that default do not track initiative.

"I have long endorsed a standard that allows consumers to affirmatively decide whether to permit collection of their personal information and targeting of advertisements. However, Friday's announcement leaves many questions unanswered about whether and to what extent consumers will be able to opt-in to information sharing across Microsoft's many Web-based products, whether they will have to opt out of such sharing, or whether they will have no choice at all in the matter."

Markey wants the answers, "no later than Nov. 13," to a number of questions, including:

  • How and when did the company notify consumers about the changes contained in the service agreement?
  • What are the Web-based products that are impacted by the new service agreement?
  • Under the new service agreement, how will Microsoft share information between Web-based products?
  • Will Microsoft use the information that is shared across Web-based products to target advertisements, or do existing privacy policies and the new service agreement and permit the information that is shared between products to be used for targeting advertising purposes
  • Will consumers be provided a choice to opt-out of information sharing between Microsoft's Web-based products?
  • Will information collected about children and teens be shared across Web-based products and will they have different opt-in and opt-out options?"

Markey is co-sponsor of a bill that would disallow online tracking of kids for marketing purposes and also provide a "delete" button that parents could use to expunge information their kids had shared online, but shouldn't have.