Microsoft has updated its Services Agreement, which pertains to Hotmail, SkyDrive, Microsoft accounts, Windows Live Messenger, Microsoft Photo Gallery, Bing, MSN,, and many other websites, and services. The company reveals that the modified agreement of its terms of service will be effective from October 19, 2012. No explicit action is required by users to indicate that they accept the agreement; mere usage of any of the services will constitute automatic agreement to the terms defined within. Users who do not wish to agree to these terms have the option of canceling the service at anytime.

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Microsoft  updates its Services Agreement

Much like the recently revealed Windows 8 End User License Agreement, the new agreement for online services is written in plain and simple English with a minimum of legal and tech jargon. Many of the sections are written in a question-and-answer format and provide explicit examples of how things work. While the vast majority of users will still not bother to read through the entire thing, sections labeled 'Who owns the content that I put on the services?' and 'What does Microsoft do with my content?' lay down both Microsoft and the users' rights and liabilities for easy future reference.

The most noteworthy change from Microsoft's previous policy involves how the company handles your data across various services. As per the new terms laid out, users retain ownership rights to all content, but Microsoft may use it in any way it sees fit. “When you upload your content to the services, you agree that it may be used, modified, adapted, saved, reproduced, distributed, and displayed to the extent necessary to protect you and to provide, protect and improve Microsoft products and services. For example, we may occasionally use automated means to isolate information from email, chats, or photos in order to help detect and protect against spam and malware, or to improve the services with new features that makes them easier to use. When processing your content, Microsoft takes steps to help preserve your privacy.”  

Microsoft adds, “We clarified how Microsoft uses your content to better protect consumers and improve our products, including aligning our usage to the way we're designing our cloud services to be highly integrated across many Microsoft products. We realize you may have personal conversations and store personal files using our products, and we want you to know that we prioritize your privacy”.

The new Service Agreement covers topics such as the scope of the agreement, terms of acceptance, service cancellation policy, privacy, and liabilities in case of service disruptions. When using any of Microsoft's services, users will also automatically agree to the Microsoft Anti-Spam Policy and the Microsoft Code of Conduct, which are incorporated into this agreement. From time to time, they be modfied, at which point users will be notified “either through the user interface, in an email notification, or through other reasonable means”.

Microsoft adds further in its modified agreement, under Software that, “If you use or receive software from us as part of the services, it's governed by one of two sets of license terms (the “license terms”): If you are presented with a license for the software, the terms of that license apply to the software; if no license is presented to you, the terms of this agreement apply not only to the services but also to the software (and the term “services” in this agreement includes the software). The software is licensed, not sold, and Microsoft reserves all rights to the software not expressly granted by Microsoft under the license terms, whether by implication, estoppel, or otherwise. If this agreement governs the website you are viewing, any third party scripts or code, linked to or referenced from this web site, are licensed to you by the third parties that own such code, not by Microsoft.”

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