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Important Windows Update: Microsoft Invades Your Privacy With a Bing Bar

If you use a computer running Microsoft Windows and you’re like me, you might just click “OK” when you’re presented with software updates to install. Those updates come in fast and furious, and with so many viruses and worms out there it’s a better approach than not installing any updates at all. But for some reason this morning I paused to review the two updates Windows wanted me to install, and what I saw gave me pause.

One of these updates was down-listed as merely “Optional,” was a useful update for my computer, allowing it to read SD cards with more than 32 gigabytes of storage space. The other update was priority-listed as “Important.” What did it do that was so important? Add a program called Bing Bar.

Bing Bar Crapware

What does the Bing Bar do, other than promote the use of Microsoft brand web services and stick buttons on your screen to launch programs that already exist? It collects personal information on you, ostensibly to help you fill out forms and “improve Bing and your online experience,” but also to make money off of information about you.

While it explains how it will track you, Microsoft swears up and down that it doesn’t sell your information, oh no:

Your Windows Live ID will be used for the purposes of fulfilling the Bing Rewards Preview. Information related to your participation in the Bing Rewards Preview including that set forth below, is stored in connection with your Windows Live ID. The information collected enables us to properly record your Rewards credits, protect against fraud, and to improve Bing and your online experience. The information collected includes your system configuration and IP address, the number of searches you do, and your interaction with search advertising (but not the content of the ads). This information is collected and stored in connection with your Windows Live ID for up to 15 months. At any point you may discontinue participation in the Bing Rewards Preview and remove the Bing Bar. The Reward Counter will stop counting your searches and collecting the information described above when the Rewards program ends on September 30, 2011 or when you discontinue participation in the Bing Rewards Preview. The Bing Rewards Preview is offered in addition to the Bing search services available to users, and to learn more about the Bing search services, please read the Microsoft Online Privacy Statement….

No, we won’t share, lease or rent your information to third parties. To see how Microsoft uses and protects the information you provide, please see the Microsoft Online Privacy Statement.

If it doesn’t “share, lease or rent your information to third parties,” Microsoft still makes money off of your personal information. The Microsoft Online Privacy Statement lays it out:

When you register for certain Microsoft services, we will ask you to provide personal information. The information we collect may be combined with information obtained from other Microsoft services and other companies. We use cookies and other technologies to keep track of your interactions with our sites and services to offer a personalized experience. We use the information we collect to provide the services you request. Our services may include the display of personalized content and advertising. We use your information to inform you of other products or services offered by Microsoft and its affiliates, and to send you relevant survey invitations related to Microsoft services. We do not sell, rent, or lease our customer lists to third parties. In order to help provide our services, we occasionally provide information to other companies that work on our behalf. You can stop the delivery of promotional e-mail from a Microsoft site or service by following the instructions in the e-mail you receive.

In short, Microsoft doesn’t directly sell your information. It sells advertising and spam e-mail capability targeted to people who live where you live, who work where you work, who do things on the internet that you do, and who conduct Microsoft Bing searches for information like you do. Microsoft keeps all that behavioral information in a database, along with your name, your e-mail address, your computer’s IP address, and any other contact or personal information that you are willingly or unwittingly send Microsoft’s way. And sometimes Microsoft provides (not sells! oh, no) that information to other companies.

Is all that worth a stupid toolbar with redundant buttons on it?

That’s a rhetorical question. You know the answer.

12 comments to Important Windows Update: Microsoft Invades Your Privacy With a Bing Bar

  • Jeff

    Ever since I learned that the most common Microsoft update is the monthly “Malicious Software Removal Tool,” I have started clicking the option to manually decide what updates go onto my computer and which don’t (MSRT doesn’t make the cut). I suspect their MSRT wouldn’t remove the Bing Bar for me.

  • Tom

    What are you afraid of? It’s just Big Brother following your every move.

    • HareTrinity

      I’m someone who doesn’t mind all the cameras and even optional tracking devices, which at least have the excuse of SAFETY (serious attack/murder, missing people, particularly children) and I personally think all they need is some serious regulations about who checks them (e.g. they’re only used with a warrant, otherwise the data has the passwords of several people guarding it).

      All this watching computers and other such things, however, is NOT on my list of safety. People can look at any type of image or text and not be forced into dangerous acts by it, EVEN hate speech, which I’m against in public (British as I am) I support people’s right to talk about it when not out in public egging people on.

      Ultimately these can only be used to keep an eye on exchanges of information.

  • I haven’t noticed this one myself. What version of Windows? Maybe it’s because you had something else already installed where this was considered the “updated” for it?

    Although what purpose do these toolbars and crap really serve the user these days? They were vaguely useful back when IE really sucked and had no features. But I see no purpose for them other than the fact that Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, etc… liked the ability to install additional crap that they could use for tracking you and selling ads. Which is probably why they’re still pushing this crap on people even though very few people need them or use them. I’m used to declining things myself. Every time there’s a java update and it wants to install the Bing or Yahoo toolbar. Arg! But then again I also don’t accept cookies except at sites I whitelist and I block flash again unless I whitelist. I’m a little anal about these things. Of course goole is in my white list so they can still track the hell out of me.

    • It’s a part of “Windows Live,” a suite of programs that come pre-installed with Windows 7. I agree with you about the “bars,” Billy. They serve no purpose — for us. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to opt out of the Yahoo toolbar and the Google toolbar, which are shoved in with other software packages willy-nilly. Egad!

  • ChazMan

    I have Vista Home Basic. The local Update tool won’t go away because I keep un-checking Bing Bar 7.0

    With XP, I simply went to http://www.update.microsoft.com, ran their online update tool, checked off “Don’t ask me again” about anything I thought was unneeded. I could also ‘unhide’ any updates I’d hidden.

    Now, that website simply directs me to use my local Update tool, so I can’t tell MS to stop bothering me.

    Since the overwhelming use I have today for a computer is web browsing, email, spreadsheets, documents (all of which can be handled by Chrome, Gmail and Google Doc’s) and other plain-jane tasks like audio and video, I could go to LINUX, a Mac, or even Google’s new WebOS. Leaving Windows behind could be no more painful than shedding DOS 6.22 or Windows 3.1 or Windows 98 — I don’t miss them, and I never looked back. Maybe I’m fickle, or maybe I’m just tired of being pushed around and having MS take advantage of me (and make money by selling my personal information without even asking me).

    Annoying me (until I give in) is an excellent way to get me to look around for another vendor.

  • Malachi

    My name is not Malachi or Matthew I don’t mean to sound like a conspiracy theorist or some nut, but I was looking up some dog food for my mother and not soon after I got off of a review page for ol’ Roy I went to msn.com and got an add on the side for Ol’ Roy dog food at cheap prices…. So I decided to experiment and went to a few other sites searching for just iphone sales just for the fun of it and then went to msn again and got an ad for believe it or not an iphone….

  • nelson

    hello

    the “important update” bing bar comes up on new clean instalations of windows 7, without windows live in it.

    shame on microsoft for this; bing bar IMPORTANT UPDATE??, shame on microsoft!!

  • les

    all this talk about bing toolbar being forcably installaed agaainst my permission is disgusting .HOW DO I REMOVE THIS INTRUSION

  • Marhod

    Were it not for the following, I likely would have run my own side-by-side comparison of Google vs. Bing and made my own decision. I’ve observed that although this question has been asked in multiple spaces on the internet, but the standard responses given don’t address these problems:

    1. Microsoft insists that you install the Bing toolbar as a condition of using Internet Explorer with Windows 7. There is no way of declining the Bing toolbar; Microsoft insists that you agree to install it, thereby forcing you to uninstall it.

    2. Windows updates include the Bing toolbar, forcing you to go in each time and specifically choose the updates you want instead of the convenience of “automatic” updates. I constantly have to check my updates and the Bing toolbar has been reinstalled several times, thereby forcing me to uninstall it each time. It’s as if Microsoft assumes that this software version of Chinese water torture will eventually browbeat consumers into submission.

    The only responses from Microsoft refuse to address the fact Microsoft is forcing you to accept the Bing toolbar as a prerequisite for using Internet Explorer, and they hurriedly try to redirect you with the standard Control Panel Uninstall response. Even Dell support refuses to address the issue, simply saying there is no choice and you can go in and uninstall it. As a Microsoft partner in distribution, they certainly have to be aware of this business practice.

    IMHO these are sneaky business tactics, and I’m considering a formal complaint to the Federal Trade Commission. I’d love an actual response to this very specific complaint rather than an avoidance of the issue.

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