Microsoft users might want to take a closer look at the company’s update to its service agreement. Set to take effect this May, privacy experts are alarmed about the changes seem to suggest that Microsoft will now have the right to review user content even without prior consent.
— Mashable (@mashable) March 27, 2018
The questionable changes were first reported on by Jonathan Corbett at the Professional Troublemaker site. Microsoft warned against the use of offensive language as well as the sharing of inappropriate content. The company stated that violating the modified rules could result in the closure of a user’s Microsoft account.
“In the Code of Conduct section, we’ve clarified that use of offensive language and fraudulent activity is prohibited. We’ve also clarified that violation of the Code of Conduct through Xbox Services may result in suspensions or bans from participation in Xbox Services, including forfeiture of content licenses, Xbox Gold Membership time, and Microsoft account balances associated with the account.”
But what worried privacy experts, even more, is that aside from banning users from the company’s services, using offensive language can even be used by Microsoft as grounds to conduct an investigation and go through the user’s private data. As pointed out by Corbett, the term “offensive language” is a bit too ambiguous and its definition can vary greatly between different people.
“Enforcement. If you violate these Terms, we may stop providing Services to you or we may close your Microsoft account. We may also block delivery of a communication (like email, file sharing or instant message) to or from the Services in an effort to enforce these Terms or we may remove or refuse to publish Your Content for any reason. When investigating alleged violations of these Terms, Microsoft reserves the right to review Your Content in order to resolve the issue. However, we cannot monitor the entire Services and make no attempt to do so.”
The updated rules could be particularly problematic for users of Microsoft’s gaming service Xbox Live. This is because, within gaming circles, trash-talking is normal among players.
This was pointed out by Corbett who couldn’t help but ask, “If I call someone a mean name in Xbox Live, not only will they cancel my account, but also confiscate any funds I’ve deposited in my account?”
Aside from Xbox Live, the updated agreement will also cover users of other Microsoft services such as Skype and Office. Given the scope, Corbett fears that the amended terms would allow any Microsoft staff to pry open anyone’s private data such as Skype call recordings as long as they are "investigating" something.
At the moment, Microsoft declined to comment on the issues raised related to the amended agreement.