MISC. 13


Microsoft is a sprawling company, with a number of user agreements governing different products and services. The most important is the Microsoft Services Agreement, which applies to your use of Windows Live, Bing, MSN, Microsoft Office Live and With respect to Data Use, Microsoft can share your information between all of these different services. Microsoft is also one of the lowest scoring companies in the Data Disclosure category. It has a poor record of transparency with respect to government data requests.

Data Use

When you post content on a Microsoft service, you grant Microsoft a license to use, modify, adapt and distribute that content to “provide, protect and improve” all “Microsoft products and services”. This means that Microsoft can share your information between its various services (e.g. by using the contents of your Hotmail messages or documents to serve relevant ads in Bing search results). This is part of a trend towards greater internal data sharing. Google and Facebook, among others, also allow your data to be shared across their various products. 

SCORE: 17 / 25
  • Microsoft can share your data among its various different services (like Bing, Hotmail and Office)

Data Disclosure

Microsoft can disclose information about you in three situations: (1) to respond to legal process, (2) to “protect the rights or property of Microsoft or [its] customers”, and (3) where it believes that disclosure is necessary to “protect the personal safety of Microsoft employees, customers, or the public”. Although some of this language is unnecessarily broad, this provision is not unusual. Most of the companies surveyed have similar disclosure rights.

However, Microsoft’s actual practices in responding to government data requests have been inadequate. It does not commit to informing users when the government has requested data about them. It does not publish statistics about government requests. And it has no history of actively resisting overly broad government demands.

SCORE: 15 / 25
  • Microsoft is not transparent about government data requests
  • Microsoft can share your data with third parties

Amendment & Termination

Microsoft agrees to notify you before any changes to the Microsoft Services Agreement takes effect (although it does not specify a minimum notice period). With respect to termination, Microsoft has the right to cancel or suspend your account “at any time without notice and for any reason”. We would like to see Microsoft limit its right to terminate to cases where a user has breached the Agreement.

SCORE: 10 / 25
  • Microsoft will notify you of changes to the terms
  • Microsoft can terminate your account whenever it wants


The Microsoft Services Agreement contains a mandatory arbitration clause. This means that you give up your right to sue Microsoft in court. You also give up your right to bring a class action suit. Mandatory arbitration is a worrying trend, because most consumers think that if they have a dispute with a merchant, they will have access to the judicial system and all of its rights and protections. These rights do not exist in arbitration proceedings.

SCORE: 13 / 25
  • Mandatory arbitration means you can't sue Microsoft in court