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What Is WindowsMedia.com?

WindowsMedia.com consists of a family of web sites and web-based services. The WindowsMedia.com services are used by Microsoft Windows software, such as Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer. You can access the WindowsMedia.com privacy statement discussed in this article by going to Help, Privacy Statement within Windows Media Player.

NOTE

To Microsoft's credit, they don't try to hide their privacy statements. Take Windows Media Player as an example. The privacy policy can be accessed from Help, Privacy Statement. Then there's a link to the policy from Tools, Options, on the Privacy tab. There's also a link in the Help file. And finally, there are several links on Microsoft's web site pointing to the privacy statement.

What They Collect

According to Microsoft, "In general, WindowsMedia.com doesn't collect personally identifiable information, such as name, address, or telephone number." That's true. In general, it doesn't—but sometimes it does. For example, if you sign up for a WindowsMedia.com newsletter, it collects your email address, which is definitely a piece of personally identifiable information.

So what specific information does WindowsMedia.com gather? Here's a list of items that WindowsMedia.com may collect from you:

  • Your email address, if you sign up for WindowsMedia.com newsletter

  • Your ZIP code

  • The web sites and pages you visit within WindowsMedia.com

  • Your IP address

  • Your browser type

  • Domain names

  • Access times

  • Referring web site's addresses

  • Any data that WindowsMedia.com receives when processing service requests

The information listed above is kept in daily logs, and Microsoft retains those daily logs for at least one year.

What They Share

When you use WindowMedia.com, you agree to the following terms:

  • If you sign up for the WindowsMedia.com newsletter, your email address will be sent to the MSN Newsletter Service.

  • Any information you enter and submit to WindowsMedia.com to improve the quality of the Metadata Retrieval service may be shared with other users of the service.

TIP

What does Microsoft mean by "other users"—other Microsoft employees? No, everyone else in the world who uses their service.

  • Your personal information may be shared with all Microsoft vendors, or subcontractors who provide limited services such as customer support. Microsoft does say that the vendors are required to maintain the confidentiality of that information and are prohibited from using that information for any other purpose.

  • Your personal information may be stored and processed not only in the United States but also any other country in the world. According to Microsoft, they abide by U.S. Department of Commerce's "safe harbor" framework when it comes to the collection, use, and retention of data from the European Union. What about countries outside the European Union? Well, we don't know. There's no mention of that.

What About Cookies?

A cookie is placed on your hard drive when you use WindowsMedia.com. The cookie contains a unique identifier that allows WindowsMedia.com to generate anonymous visitor statistics. The cookies are also useful for vendors to determine the type of music you listen to. You have the ability to decline cookies, but then certain features of Windows Media, such as Radio Tuner presets, will not function properly. Here's what you agree to about cookies:

  • WindowsMedia.com can place cookies on your computer.

  • MSN also has the right to place cookies on your hard drive.

  • Any third party that WindowsMedia.com allows to display ads on WindowsMedia.com web sites also will have the right to place "persistent" cookies on your hard drive. These cookies may reveal your listening habits—more specifically, the requests made by Windows Media Player—so that the content providers can offer you personalized services. What else the third parties do with the information is up to them, and you need to read their privacy statements for more details.

NOTE

What, you mean that you don't keep track of all the content providers for all the streaming media you use at any given time, and read their privacy statements on a regular basis?

  • Any third party that MSN allows to display ads on WindowsMedia.com web sites also has the right to place "persistent" cookies on your hard drive.

I want to make a couple of additional comments on the issues of cookies and ads. As the privacy statement mentions, Microsoft doesn't control the cookies placed on your hard drive or the ads by third parties, so if any of these advertisers decide to place spyware on your computer, don't blame Microsoft—because you've already agreed to it.

Also, as mentioned earlier, you can turn off the cookies in Internet Explorer. However, you should be aware that when you make changes to cookies settings in Internet Explorer, those changes affect not only the Windows Media Player but also Internet Explorer, Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, and any other program that may use cookies, as indicated in Figure 1.

Figure 1Figure 1





Privacy statements from other companies, such as IBM and Novell, pretty much include the same statements about cookies and ads. Oracle.com, however, uses a different language when they talk about cookies. They say that their cookies usually last anywhere between 30–365 days but some cookies may last longer. Translation: Oracle.com may use persistent cookies that never expire.

Links to Third-Party Retailers

To make it easier for you to make online purchases, WindowsMedia.com may include links to third-party retailers. Let's see what you're agreeing to when it comes to third-party links:

  • If you click any links on WindowsMedia.com and connect to third-party web sites, those sites in turn may place cookies on your computer. How they use your personal information is up to them. It's your responsibility to read their privacy statements. Needless to say, Microsoft's privacy statements don't apply to third parties.

  • Microsoft is not responsible for the privacy statements or the collection practices of these third parties. Therefore, if these third parties use spyware, Trojan horses, or any other means to collect your personal information, you agree that Microsoft is not to be blamed.

The section that deals with third-party links in the WindowsMedia.com privacy statement is pretty standard compared to the privacy statements of most web sites.

Use of Web Beacons

WindowsMedia.com web pages and the WindowsMedia.com newsletter may contain electronic images called web beacons. These beacons are also referred to as single-pixel GIFs. Their purpose is to count the users who have visited the web pages and to deliver co-branded services. They also help a vendor determine the time, date, cookie numbers, and other information related to the web pages you're visiting. As far as web beacons are concerned, you agree to the following:

  • WindowsMedia.com can use web beacons to determine the date and time of your web page visits and the description of the web page on which the beacon resides.

  • Any third party that does business with Microsoft can also place their own web beacons to determine the date, time, and description of the web pages you've visited.

Essentially, you agree that Microsoft, and every vendor in the world that does business with Microsoft, has the right to know your web browsing habits, including the date and time of the web pages that you were viewing and the description of those web pages. What the third parties do with that information is totally up to them.

Communicating with Streaming Media Servers

When you use Windows Media Player, you might listen to streaming audio or watch streaming video. Let's see what you're agreeing to:

  • When you play streaming audio, video, or radio stations on Windows Media Player, Microsoft will send the streaming media server a log. Microsoft doesn't typically operate these streaming media servers, so you agree that it's up to the content provider to decide how the logs are used and whether the logs are shared with other third parties.

  • The logs may include the following:

    • Billing and advertisement tracking

    • Connection time

    • IP address

    • OS version

    • Player version

    • Player identification number (Player ID)

    • Date

    • Protocol

    • And more...

In this article, we've only looked at the privacy statement for WindowsMedia.com. Because WindowsMedia.com has some close ties with MSN, as indicated by the references to MSN services, you might be interested in finding out how MSN collects and shares your personal information. Did you know that MSN collects information such as your email address, name, home or work address, telephone number, ZIP code, credit card number, billing address, age, gender, preferences, interests, and favorites? It then combines this data with information obtained from other Microsoft services, as well as all other companies. For more information, check out the link to MSN's privacy statement at the end of this article.

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Last Update: November 17, 2020