Understand MSN’s and Hotmail.com’s Privacy Policy

I opened my Hotmail account long before it became a subsidiary of Microsoft. Back when Hotmail was an innovative idea, an idea of offering people free web based e-mail accounts that they could use from any computer. Getting my own e-mail account was a big joy for me; now I have multiple accounts for multiple purposes.

So the Hotmail privacy policy is the policy that has been affecting my Internet use the longest. The information that I have given Hotmail, though thousands of e-mails, log ins and, possibly, through cookies and other technical ways that Hotmail (and Microsoft) have been getting my information.

The privacy policy, to my surprise, was very easy to find. After wastefully searching for it and looking under “Options”, I found that it was linked at the bottom of the Hotmail welcome page, as the “MSN.com Privacy Statement”. I clicked on it and found a document (that hadn’t been edited in over 6 months) that states, in verbose language, the lengthy privacy policy of Hotmail.

One thing I do remember, and something that seems to be common with various Internet registration procedures is that you have to read a long “statement of rules” or something similar. This long statement of rules is something that most of us, sick of them, skip by, but in my early days of the Internet, I once actually read one (well, most of it) and found that its main point was that this agreement could be altered and changed by the company or website at any time for any reason. That was a bit of a scary idea, that they could essentially tie you to anything by making you agree to this statement. I remember that Hotmail had one as well – and I’m guessing that this privacy statement had been changed numerous times though the four + years that I had been using Hotmail.

MSN says that it will not give out your personal information, which it collects through many different methods, to anyone. It also said that all the information it had was kept very secure. It seemed pretty airtight and fair, but I scanned for loopholes, and found one near the middle of the statement – it stated that MSN might give out its information to companies with which it may outsource certain functions. I imagined all the companies that MSN must work with and decided that this loophole could probably be used to give my information to any of MSN’s partners. Also I found that I was now a member of the “.NET” service (though I never remember signing up) and therefore was also subject to the .NET privacy statement.

The .NET initiative is another Microsoft ploy to take over the Internet. It keeps all your personal information on one database (imagine if that database got hacked!), but purports to be very secure. Since the .NET passport is something that you always would use, they can gather tons of information about you. According to the site, .NET information was recorded and stored, but that this information was only used my Microsoft, and any other website where you authorized it to be seen. I wondered if this was like Yahoo!, where all the setting for authorization were automatically set to “yes”. I hoped not, but since I don’t use .NET I didn’t think that this would be a problem.

Later portions of the privacy statement went into garrulous detail about how the information was collected, stored, and accessed. I wonder if all this information was made public due to the lawsuits that Microsoft has faced, or if they were just trying to be informative. Other privacy statement that I had seen had never been this detailed, but then none of them had a big of a presence online as Microsoft did. Though I always have kept my personal information offline, now I will be more vigilant about it as it seems obvious that there is no security on the Internet.

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