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Microsoft Scrutinized by EU Privacy Watchdogs for Policy Changes

Microsoft Scrutinized by EU Privacy Watchdogs for Policy Changes
A review by EU privacy regulators of Microsoft Corp.'s updates to services agreement will verify whether the changes could entail new risks for users’ privacy. Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

Microsoft Corp.’s policy changes for its Internet products including Hotmail and Bing are being formally examined by European data protection regulators for potential privacy issues.

Updates to Microsoft’s services agreement, which took effect Oct. 19, are being formally reviewed, EU privacy regulators wrote to Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer and the head of Microsoft Luxembourg. Luxembourg’s and France’s data protection commissions are leading the examination, according to the Dec. 17 letter, obtained by Bloomberg News.

“Given the wide range of services you offer, and popularity of these services, changes in your Services Agreement and the linked Privacy Policy may affect many individuals in most or all of the EU member states,” wrote Jacob Kohnstamm, who leads the association of EU data protection commissioners. They “decided to check the possible consequences for the protection of the personal data of these individuals in a coordinated procedure.”

The review will verify whether the changes could entail new risks for users’ privacy. The examination is also checking whether Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft’s privacy policy meets European standards on notifying users and allowing them a choice of services, Gerard Lommel, head of the Luxembourg privacy regulator, said in an interview in October.

Privacy Policy

“In updating the Microsoft Services Agreement we did not change our privacy policy,” said Robin Koch, a spokesman for Microsoft in Brussels. “We are confident they will find Microsoft’s long-standing commitment to privacy has not changed.”

The 27 EU data protection regulators, who work together in the so-called Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, urged Google Inc. to address concerns about its privacy policy in October following a review of changes implemented this year.

Data protection is currently policed by separate regulators across the EU. As part of an overhaul of the union’s 17-year-old rules on the issue, its executive body wants to simplify the system so companies deal with only one regulator in the region.

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