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By Nathan Olivarez-Giles
If you use an Xbox, Windows 10, Skype, Bing or other Microsoft Corp. products, the company is collecting some data on you. After years of inconsistent privacy settings, there's now a dashboard that provides more transparency and control over your histories and personal information.
The new online tool -- account.microsoft.com/privacy -- is the first step in a two-part initiative. The second is due this spring, when a significant Windows 10 update brings more granular privacy settings.
"We want you to be informed about and in control of your data, which is why we're working hard on these settings and controls," said Terry Myerson, vice president of Microsoft's Windows and Devices Group, in a blog post. "Regardless of your data collection choices, we will not use the contents of your email, chat, files, or pictures to target ads to you."
The dashboard is similar to a website that Alphabet Inc.'s Google introduced last July. Both provide a single jumping-off point for seeing what data the company is collecting on you. In some cases it gives you centralized controls; in others it links to other product-specific privacy pages.
Microsoft's dashboard lets you see your Edge browser history, your Bing search history and your Cortana preferences (aka "Cortana's Notebook"). While you can see these entire histories, you only have the option of keeping them or deleting them wholesale. This is far less helpful than Google's tool, which lets you remove specific searches and sites individually.
For services such as Xbox, Skype, Office and the HealthVault health data manager, as well as data tracked for Microsoft's ads and marketing business, the dashboard simply links you to other websites. In some instances, you can easily remove data, in others, you can only review it.
You also can't manage Windows 10 privacy settings on this new dashboard. Those settings, built into the OS, will become simpler to use following this spring's Creators Update, Microsoft says.
Users will be able to opt out of location tracking, speech recognition, and personal data being used to create "relevant ads." If you use Windows 10, you can't opt out of Microsoft's diagnostic data collection, which monitors what apps you have installed, for instance. But you will be able to step down from "full" sharing to "basic" sharing, so that it will no longer collect data on your typing, your OS feature use and some other areas.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 11, 2017 18:44 ET (23:44 GMT)
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