Micro$oft Monitor

Published by NetAction Issue No. 2 May 31, 1997
Repost where appropriate. See copyright information at end of message.


Microsoft's Sidewalk Spam
About The Micro$oft Monitor

Microsoft's Sidewalk Spam

If you're planning to visit Microsoft's New York Sidewalk site, prepare to be spammed.

Last week, a sharp-eyed visitor to this site noticed the "Terms and Conditions" link that appears in tiny print on the site's home page. His findings were reported in the May 28 issue of Computer Privacy Digest, a moderated forum for discussion on the effect of technology on privacy.

Near the very end of the long, legalistic reminder that Microsoft owns the Sidewalk site and just about everything else, you'll find a section entitled "Use of Information." If you take the time to read this section carefully, you'll discover that it gives Microsoft the right to "share" all of the information about you that it collects during your visits to the site. "Share" in this instance appears to be a euphemism for "sell." And cyberspace consumers who visit the site can expect to become targets for electronic marketing efforts -- aka spam -- by Microsoft and any business it chooses to "share" the information with.

Microsoft is by no means the only company that collects information about cyberspace consumers, uses it for marketing, and sells it to other electronic marketers. But by hiding its intentions within the "fine print" of a legalistic "Terms and Conditions" page, Microsoft is doing its best to keep site visitors in the dark about its plans.

At NetAction, we think companies that collect and use customer information for marketing purposes ought to say so up front -- and in plain words rather than legalistic jargon. We plan to raise this concern next week when we visit with officials at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to discuss Internet-related consumer protection issues.

The Sidewalk site is at http://www.newyork.sidewalk.com/, for those who want to see for themselves. And for those who would rather not become a target for Microsoft's spam, the disclosure language is included below.


The name, address and payment information (if applicable) that the user provides via this Web site, together with information regarding the manner in which the user uses this Web site, will not be processed or disclosed by Microsoft except as permitted by these terms and conditions. By being a user of this Web site, the user agrees that Microsoft may share with other parties both aggregate information, individual information and locator information gathered by Microsoft in the course of the user's continuing individual use of this Web site. "Aggregate information" is information that describes the habits, usage patterns and/or demographics of users as a group but does not describe or reveal the identity of any particular user. "Individual information" is information about a user that is presented in a form distinguishable from information relating to other users but not in a form that personally identifies any user or enables the recipient to communicate directly with any user. "Locator information" consists of a user's name, e-mail address, physical address and/or other data about the user that enables the recipient to personally identify the user. Any user who does not wish to receive any special offers or communications from Microsoft on behalf of suppliers, or directly from Microsoft or its affiliates, may so notify Microsoft at the listed below under SERVICE CONTACT. (Note that a user's election not to receive such information will not affect the user's receipt of offers and communications that were processed prior to the user's election.) Locator information and individual information will be processed and stored by Microsoft in the United States and, if the user does not live in the United States, possibly in the country of residence. Users may contact Microsoft to determine whether such information has been accurately recorded and, if not, to request correction of any inaccuracies in the information recorded by Microsoft.

About The Micro$oft Monitor

The Micro$oft Monitor is a free electronic newsletter, published as part of the Consumer Choice Campaign http://www.netaction.org/msoft/ccc.html. NetAction is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public, policy makers, and the media about technology-based social and political issues, and to teaching activists how to use the Internet for organizing, outreach, and advocacy.

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Copyright 1997 by The Tides Center/NetAction. All rights reserved. Material may be reposted or reproduced for non-commercial use provided NetAction is cited as the source. NetAction is a project of The Tides Center, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.