Microsoft privacy policy changes: mostly housecleaning

June 27, 2009

Last week Microsoft made a few changes to their privacy policy pertaining to advertising. Nothing too dramatic, but since we’re tracking these things, here are the relevant bits with commentary from yours truly.

Display of Advertising

Many of the Web sites and online services we offer, as well as those of our partners, are supported by advertising. Through the Microsoft Advertising Platform, we may display ads on our own sites and the sites of our advertising partners.

When we display online advertisements to you, we will place aone or more persistent cookiecookies on your computer in order to recognize your computer each time we display an ad to you. The cookies we use for advertising have an expiry date of no more than 2 years. Because we may serve advertisements on many different Web sites, we are able to compile information over time about where you, or others who are using your computer, saw and/or clicked on the advertisements we display. We use this information to make predictions about your characteristics, interests or preferences and to display targeted advertisements that we believe may be of interest to you. We may also associate this information with your subsequent visit, purchase or other activity on participating advertisers’ Web sites in order to determine the effectiveness of the advertisements.

While we may use some of the information we collect in order to personalize the ads we show you, we designed our systems to select ads based only on data that does not personally and directly identify you. For example, we may select the ads we display according to certain general interest categories or segments that we have inferred based on (a) demographic or interest data, including any you may have provided when creating an account (e.g. age, zip or postal code, gender), demographic or interest data acquired from other companies, and a general geographic location derived from your IP address, (b) the pages you view and links you click when using Microsoft’s and its advertising partners’ Web sites and services, and (c) the search terms you enter when using Microsoft’s Internet search services, such as Live Search. For more information about how we personalize ads, and the segments we use, visit Personalized Advertising Segments.

When we display personalized ads, we take a number of steps designed to protect your privacy. For example, we store page views, clicks and search terms used for ad personalization separately from your contact information or other data that directly identifies you (such as your name, e-mail address, etc.). Further, we have built in technological and process safeguards designed to prevent the unauthorized correlation of this data. We also give you the ability to opt-out of personalized ads. For more information or to use the opt-out feature, you may visit our opt-out page.. In addition, you can go to the Network Advertising Initiative, which offers a single location to opt-out of ad targeting from member companies.

We also provide third party ad delivery through our Atlas subsidiary, and you may read. For more information, visit the Atlas privacy statementwebsite at: http://www.atlassolutions.com/privacy.aspx/.

Although the majority of the online advertisements on Microsoft sites are displayed by Microsoft, we also allow third-party ad serving companies, including other ad networks, to display advertisements on our sites. These companies currently include, but are not limited to: 24/7 Real MediaAdvertising.comBidclixBlueStreakBlueStreakBurst MediaBurst MediaDoubleClickDoubleClickEuroClickEuroClickEyeblasterEyeblasterEyeWonderEyeWonderInterpollsFalkKanoodleInterpollsMediaplexKanoodlePointrollMediaplexTangoZebraPointrollYahoo! Publisher Network, TangoZebra, Yahoo! Publisher Network, andZedo Zedo.

These companies may offer you a way to opt out of ad targeting based on their cookies., and some of them are also members of the Network Advertising Initiative. You may find more information by clicking on the company names above and following the links to the Web sites of each company. Some of these companies are members of the Network Advertising Initiative, which offers a single location to opt out of ad targeting from member companies.

Two notes:

  1. Looks like some spring cleaning on the list of third-party ad networks that Microsoft uses in its role as a site publisher. Nice to see that all of them are already in the privacychoice database. Every publisher should have such a list in their privacy policy, and it should be automatically and continuously updated (stay tuned!).
  2. As for the two-year cookie lifetime, I suppose this is helpful in the sense that if the cookie is deleted and never heard from again, there is an outer limit on the duration of any any associated profile (unless it is also associated with an IP address perhaps). But since the two-year period renews every time the cookie is seen, this should not be confused with a server-side deletion policy. It would be ideal if Microsoft could provide a deletion time frame  for the data collected with these cookies, even if it needs to acknolwedge that different policies apply to different services in their network based on unique business needs.
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