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Skype, Cortana, and Privacy: Nothing has Changed with Addition of New Feature

Earlier this year with the release of the Windows 10 Creators Update and for next week's release of the Fall Creators Update Microsoft has continued to tweak the privacy experience with their two year old operating system.

Privacy comes up every time there is a discussion around Windows 10. In those early days of 2015, Microsoft was not forthcoming with details about privacy. The lack of a coherent and public message created a lot of F.U.D. (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) among users and that was the subject of a regular stream of blog posts across the web.

However, despite the company's efforts to address privacy concerns by providing a new out of the box experience that incorporates key privacy settings during an upgrade/clean install or explaining what is collected by telemetry and also reducing the amount of data that is collected, when a new feature is launched it usually gets a privacy check.

Those checks are important and we should continually hold Microsoft accountable for addressing privacy with all of their products and services. They have made good progress in this area but we should not let them relax on their work to this point.

So when a new feature or service is launched that means we should expect to see an opt-in when it comes to access to data on our devices no matter the platform.

The latest feature to come under privacy fire is the new integration of Cortana in Skype.

According to the Skype team in the public announcement of the service, they provide all the details about how Cortana can help you out on Skype by assisting in your various chats. Cortana will provide in-context assistance if you start to talk about finding a restaurant, movie, or other activity.

This is not unlike other integration of Cortana into your existence such as watching your email for shipping notifications for packages, meetings, asking about creating a reminder when you commit to taking an action with a colleague or friend, etc.

Everywhere that Cortana crosses paths with your information you had to grant explicit permission for her to access and use that information.

Despite some F.U.D. that has cropped up since this announcement went live this week, nothing has changed when it comes to Cortana and access to your Skype conversations. A deliberate action is necessary to give her permission to access that information.

Over on the Skype/Cortana Integration FAQ page, this is laid out clearly:

-- From your chat screen, tap Cortana.

-- Once you start a chat with her, she'll request your permission to use your location and IM conversations in Skype.

-- Select Agree.

-- Start chatting to Cortana and look out for helpful suggestions in chats with your friends and family.

See it there? Cortana asks for permission and you grant it - just like every other place you use Cortana. Emphasis is mine.

So as you can see - there is nothing to see here except the normal process to grant access to a service. If you do not want to grant Cortana that access you can say no when the request pops up.

And yes - when you grant those permissions Cortana will have access to your private conversations - that is what you agreed to when you gave her the OK to see that data. You can fully expect it to be used in the context of Microsoft's Privacy Policy and Statement.

If you are concerned about other areas Cortana has access you can go to Cortana's Notebook and manage that access directly.

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