Microsoft this week updated its services agreement with subtle, yet potentially significant changes to its policy on privacy and dispute settlement. The company notified users of the changes in an e-mail sent Friday, informing them that the new Terms of Service would go into effect on October 19th.
Apparently taking its cue from Google, Microsoft's revised policy allows the company to access and display user content across all of its cloud properties. Whereas the previous version of the TOS granted Microsoft the right to appropriate user content "solely to the extent necessary to provide the service," the terms now state that this content can be used to "provide, protect and improve Microsoft products and services."
This means, for example, that Microsoft can extract content from cloud-based services like Hotmail, SkyDrive, or Office.com, and use it to personalize a user's Bing search results. The company alluded to this change in its email to users, explaining that such content usage would align "to the way we're designing our cloud services to be highly integrated across many Microsoft products."
Microsoft also added a class action waiver to its contract, which requires users in the US to settle disputes with arbitration rather than litigation. This effectively waives a user's right to sue Microsoft in court, including the right to file a class action suit. Microsoft isn't the first company to adopt this policy, as both Sony and Netflix have implemented binding arbitration clauses and class action waivers, as well.