Windows Live just got refreshed, and as it’s Microsoft’s social-interconnection front end, the company felt the need to explain how it’s improving user privacy. At great length. Because, you know, “people care very much about” it.
Given the brouhaha surrounding Facebook‘s most recent big-scale mess-ups concerning user privacy, and high-profile leaks of user data from big names like AT&T, Microsoft almost had to step up to the mike to explain in public how it’s protecting, empowering, or manipulating user privacy in its latest edition of Windows Live. So that’s what the company’s done on its Windows Live blog, in a post by Live’s principal lead program manager Omar Shahine titled “Giving you more meaningful choices to control your privacy.”
The post is over 2,100 words long. That’s pretty “meaningful,” you may think, but is it actually clear? No, not really. Shahine explains the post is designed to describe “the new privacy features in Windows Live, including a new way to differentiate between sharing with your close friends and with your acquaintances, and more control over how you share with your Facebook and MySpace friends” (people still have MySpace friends?). It starts off explaining that privacy has had a “lot of attention and scrutiny” from the public and industry recently. This revelation is followed by a bullet point list explaining “our privacy principles,” riddled with bold text to emphasize bits, and starting with “People care very much about their privacy” before moving onto items like “people want simple, intuitive options” to control how much data is shared. Then it explains the different settings.
The latest Live edition was built on the idea of clear, simple privacy controls, MS claims. Why the heck wasn’t this evident right from the start with Windows Live? Did nobody think people may want to be in control of how much of their data was spread over the Intertubes? And although Windows is trying to retain “granularity” to give people powerful control over what’s shared, what it’s resulted in is a miasma of radio icons, slider bars, drop-down lists, and menus that seem to make Facebook’s famously labyrinthine privacy settings look like a stroll in the park.