Does Microsoft collect your data? Yes, thanks to Outlook

March 26, 2024
4 min

Protect yourself from future breaches

You can try Cloaked for free for 14 days

Yes, the new Microsoft Outlook collects personal data–and it’s been quite easy for them. 70% of Americans think that limiting who can and can’t access their data has become tougher over time. 

Microsoft recently gave the Outlook app a facelift, but the new app also comes with some baggage—it collects consumers’ personal data.

Of course, finding red flags in a privacy policy is cumbersome (have you ever read one?), so we give you the lowdown on everything you need to know on Microsoft & Outlook data collection. 

Does Microsoft collect data?

Yes, Microsoft collects data from multiple sources. In addition to its own products and servers, Microsoft collects data from:

  • Data brokers
  • Services that make user-generated content
  • Communication services (including email providers and social networks)
  • Service providers that help Microsoft determine your location
  • Third-party services that deliver experiences through Microsoft products

Microsoft recently added its Outlook app to this list. Most users are excited about the new personalization options and new features. But there’s something quite concerning rolled into these changes.

When you switch to the new Outlook app, Microsoft will require you to sync information with Microsoft Cloud. Doing this allows Microsoft to read your emails. 

The new Outlook isn’t Microsoft’s first data collection attempt. The company has been sourcing personal data through users and third-party apps for a while now—Outlook is just a new way to source personal data.

What data does Microsoft collect?

Microsoft’s got ears on almost every aspect of your life. Here’s the data Microsoft collects according to its privacy statement:

  • Name and contact data
  • Passwords and password hints
  • Demographic data
  • Payment data (credit card number and security code)
  • Subscription and licensing data
  • Interactions (payment and account history, browser history, device data, connectivity data, troubleshooting and help data, and more)
  • Voice data
  • Search and commands
  • Contacts and relationships
  • Location data

How Microsoft Collects Your Data

Microsoft uses multiple ways to collect your data. This could include directly collecting data from day-to-day interactions, integrating third-party apps, or syncing user data with its own servers.

Downloading & using Outlook

ms outlook

Outlook continues to send personal data once you’ve integrated it with Microsoft Cloud. This means Microsoft can access your emails, contacts, and events. Outlook essentially acts as an information gateway, pulling in data from users and sending it to the cloud.

Mind you, once you authenticate the integration between Microsoft Cloud and Outlook, Microsoft has continued access to your data. Closing the Outlook app does not stop data collection. If you only plan to try the Outlook app, make sure you log out before you abandon the app.

Integrating Outlook with other cloud services

Outlook requires you to sync information with Microsoft Cloud during setup—you can’t use the new Outlook without syncing. When you initiate the sync, Microsoft sends login details directly to Microsoft servers. 

The new Outlook app shares the collected data with 801 third-party partners who use this data to run targeted ads.

Windows Operating System

Windows collects your data in multiple ways. Here are some examples:

  • Advertising IDs: An advertising ID helps Windows identify your device. Developers and ad networks get access to your personal and non-personal data thanks to advertising IDs.
  • Windows 11 telemetry data: Telemetry data is collected to improve user experience.
  • Location: Windows 11 collects location data and relays it to the weather app.
  • Activity history: Activity history includes the websites you visit, services you use, and even the files you open.
  • Voice data: Windows collects voice data only once you grant permission.

How Microsoft Uses Your Data

ms data

Data is key to understanding user behavior and preferences. All companies want to learn more about their customers, and that’s the simplest answer to why Microsoft (or any legitimate company) collects personal data. 

But this also means you’ll see more targeted ads, and if there’s ever a data breach on Microsoft’s servers, your information could end in the hands of a cybercriminal.

Let’s dive deeper into how exactly Microsoft uses this data to understand user preferences, improve experiences, and generate profit.

Data analysis

Analyzing user data allows Microsoft to identify areas for improvement, fix bugs, and develop new features. It gives Microsoft insights needed to personalize your experience when using Microsoft products and services and offering customer support.

Data analysis can also help Microsoft improve account security. It enables Microsoft to understand your behaviors and patterns, and by the same token, allows Microsoft to identify any suspicious account activity.

Shares it with third parties

Microsoft may share data with third parties to help them operate, maintain, and improve the delivery of products and services they offer. Microsoft may also share data with trusted business partners for joint marketing efforts and product integrations.

When you set up the new Microsoft Outlook on your device, you’ll see a message from Microsoft that your data may be shared with 801 third parties. The data may be used to personalize ads and content, extract audience insights, and improve products. However, sharing this information with hundreds of service providers may not be the smartest move because their security infrastructure may not be as good as that of Microsoft.

Advertising revenue

Ad revenue isn’t as big a factor for Microsoft as it is for Google or Facebook. However, Microsoft does engage in ads through multiple channels like Bing and LinkedIn.

Microsoft may use your data to target ads across its platforms based on your preferences, search history, and demographics. Of course, not everyone is comfortable with the idea of seeing ads based on personal data that Microsoft collects.

However, Microsoft has many reasons to continue collecting personal data even if some users don’t like it. Your personal data helps Microsoft measure an ad campaign’s effectiveness and analyze user engagement. This information enables Microsoft to gauge ad performance and its marketers to optimize their strategy.

How to Protect Your Personal Data from Microsoft (& More)

Online privacy doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s what you can do to protect personal data from Microsoft (and other companies):

Understand Microsoft’s Privacy Policy

Microsoft has various privacy-related information resources like the Microsoft Trust Center, the Data Privacy Notice, and a general privacy statement. Depending on your relationship with Microsoft and the products you use, it’s important to understand the relevant privacy policies and what you’re agreeing to when using their services. 

Review & Change Your Microsoft Privacy Settings

Reading a privacy policy isn’t exactly exciting or even practical. Companies also tend to write policies that are too complex to understand for people not familiar with industry terminology. Fortunately, you can learn how to prevent or allow Microsoft to collect personal data, at least to an extent.

For example, if you’re in the UK, here’s what you can do to opt out of sharing personal data:

  1. Head over to Settings and select General from the left sidebar.
ms outlook settings
  1. Select Advertising Preferences. You’ll see a long list of companies with a toggle next to their name.
ms advertising preferences
  1. Disable ad partners as per your preference.

Unfortunately, this option isn’t available if you’re in countries like the U.S. or India.

Get Cloaked

Cloaked is a comprehensive privacy solution for your digital ecosystem. Whether you need to protect your personal information from Microsoft, mask your phone number, or stay safe when interacting on an online dating platform, Cloaked has a solution for you.

You can mask your email (or cloak your email) using Cloaked. Put simply, Cloaked lets you create new emails for any use case. This second email is temporary—you can delete it whenever you no longer need to communicate with the people you created it for.

Here’s how it works: Whenever someone sends an email to your new email, Cloaked forwards it to your primary email. The sender never finds out your primary email, so if you want to cut off contact with someone (or some company), you can discard the email in an instant.

To cloak an email:

  1. Join Cloaked.
  2. Click on the New Identity button at the bottom-left of the screen.
cloaked trending
  1. Name the identity and click on the Generate button that appears at the right end of the email field when you hover over it.
cloaked upgrade
  1. You can use this new email address for Outlook, or any other situation where you need to provide an email address. 

Of course, in addition to masking your email, Cloaked also offers:

  • The option to create identities where you can create a new username, password, phone number, and more
  • Encrypted password manager
  • The ability to share identities securely
  • A secure place to store information and documents
  • Identity theft insurance

Learn more about Cloaked

More About Microsoft Data Protection

Below, we answer some common questions about Microsoft data protection.

Can I trust Microsoft with my data?

Microsoft shares your data with third parties, but Microsoft is unlikely to use your data for fraud or scams. Whether you trust Microsoft with your data depends on your personal preferences and level of comfort with their privacy practices.

What personal data is collected by Microsoft?

Microsoft collects plenty of personal data through Outlook, Windows, and other products and services. If you’ve been using Microsoft for a while, there’s a good chance Microsoft has your name and email. Depending on the exact products you use, Microsoft might also have your contact data, payment data, contacts and relationships, and location data.

Does Microsoft keep your data?

Yes, Microsoft retains your data. The specific data they retain and the length of time depend on various factors like the nature of the data, legal requirements, and business needs.

Can you stop Microsoft from collecting data?

Yes, Microsoft lets you choose whether you want to share personal data in most cases. For example, you can disable telemetry or location sharing on your Windows computer to stop sharing that data. Microsoft doesn’t make protecting your data too easy, though.

For example, the new Outlook app has an option in General settings where you can choose the third parties you do or don’t want to share data with. However, this option isn’t available in all regions. And you’ll need to toggle off all companies in the list individually—there’s no one-click solution here.

Unfortunately, the new Outlook app doesn’t give you the option to not sync with Microsoft Cloud. If you want to use the new Outlook, you have no choice but to share login details with Microsoft.

Protect Your Data with Cloaked

If you’re worried about Microsoft stealing your data, use a Cloaked email to sign up. Since none of your information is associated with the Cloaked email, it doesn’t matter if Microsoft has access to this email.

And don’t stop there: you can make identities for endless use cases. Each identity includes a unique username, email address, and phone number. You can use this email and phone number to sign up on websites, set up banking accounts, shop online, register on a dating site–and much more.

Plus, the platform’s zero-knowledge access architecture guarantees that nobody except you has access to your data.

Ready to stop Microsoft from collecting your personal data? 

Join Cloaked today.

Protect yourself from future breaches

You can try Cloaked for free for 14 days
View all
Data Breaches
April 20, 2024

Biggest Data Breaches & Cyber Attacks of 2024 (So Far)

Biggest Data Breaches & Cyber Attacks of 2024 (So Far)

Arjun Bhatnagar
Data Breaches
April 20, 2024

Biggest Data Breaches & Cyber Attacks of 2024 (So Far)

Biggest Data Breaches & Cyber Attacks of 2024 (So Far)

Arjun Bhatnagar
Data Breaches
April 17, 2024

Microsoft Data Breach 2024: Everything You Need to Know

Microsoft Data Breach 2024: Everything You Need to Know

Arjun Bhatnagar
Data Breaches
April 17, 2024

Microsoft Data Breach 2024: Everything You Need to Know

Microsoft Data Breach 2024: Everything You Need to Know

Arjun Bhatnagar
Data Breaches
April 2, 2024

AT&T Data Breach: Was I Affected? How to Protect Yourself [2024 Update]

AT&T Data Breach: Was I Affected? How to Protect Yourself [2024 Update]

Arjun Bhatnagar
Data Breaches
April 2, 2024

AT&T Data Breach: Was I Affected? How to Protect Yourself [2024 Update]

AT&T Data Breach: Was I Affected? How to Protect Yourself [2024 Update]

Arjun Bhatnagar