With Cortana, Microsoft is 'scroogled' in new Windows 10 spyware scare

Cortana Microsoft Windows 10
Credit: Microsoft Corp.

Microsoft’s Marcus Ash claims it’s not like that at all

Cortana, Microsoft's assistant app in Windows 10, is getting even more nosey than before. We're told Redmond will scan your email, in order to remind you to keep your commitments.

Sounds benign -- helpful, even. But some are worrying that it's just one more privacy invasion from the Pacific Northwest.

Even though you can turn it off, it's on by default. And we've seen problems before with settings mysteriously reverting to defaults, right?

In IT Blogwatch, bloggers pay no attention to The Man behind the curtain.

curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment.


She may be snowed in, but Mary Jo Foley can still use Notepad. Here she is, with Microsoft to make email, calendar reminders smarter with Cortana:

Cortana will be able to review and suggest new reminders based on emails that users send...using machine-learning techniques.

Cortana will proactively ask users if they want to set reminders for a task. ... Users can turn off this email scanning feature, a Microsoft spokesperson said.

There's no definitive commitment or timeline for bringing these features to other platforms where Cortana is supported.


Sounds spooky. But Tom Warren buffets the worries—Cortana now scans your emails to make sure you're keeping promises:

Starting today, Windows Insiders will get access to a new commitment option in Cortana for Windows 10.

It's designed to pick up on emails where you promise your boss to finish a particular project in time. ... If you send an email...with content like "I'll get back to you by next week"...then Cortana will...help you set a reminder.

The email scanning is completed locally so no data is sent to Microsoft's servers until you agree.

Android and iOS clients will also be updated in the future to support the new options.


OK, Google, beat that. Microsoft's Marcus Ash smolders—Cortana Gets Better at Helping You Manage Your Busy Schedule:

When we first set out to build Cortana, we knew we had to build an indispensable personal assistant.

Today, I’m excited to announce new features. ... People often make promises to do things in email but may forget about them as the days go by and emails pile up. ... Helping you to keep tabs on your commitments is just one of the ways Cortana will get more proactive.

This is just the start...as we continue to refine Cortana’s intelligence and add new capabilities. ... We know we’re just scratching the surface of how Cortana can help you be more productive.


Yeah, but this sounds like yet another Windows 10 privacy nightmare. Here's a slightly sarcastic poken1151:

I'd like to be conflicted about this. But Cortana's yet to pull anything from my mail consistently.

I want to be just as violated as OK Google users but she only half caresses me...while in my...pocket.


Well, it's easy to be cynical. So, with a gratuitous Clippy gag, here's Natasha Lomas—Microsoft’s Personal Assistant Tech, Cortana, Now Generates Reminders From Emails:

So if you’re the kind of person who’s so busy with work you forget to buy the cinema tickets to go on that date...then Cortana can now step in and help to save your marriage.

If you don’t like the idea of Cortana scanning your email — or of a robotic assistant popping up with...suggestions — you can at least turn it off.


Peccávi nimis: Cogitatióne, verbo, ópere et omissióne. Travis Pope offers Windows 10 Will Scan Your Email for Reminders Soon:

Those worried about their privacy aren’t likely to appreciate [this]. The operating system launched amongst a flurry of reports that Windows 10 was sharing details when explicitly asked not to.

This new feature works exactly the same as other features in Cortana that scan email correspondence for information. ... Cortana also looks for movie tickets and reservations.


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Opinions expressed may not represent those of Computerworld. Ask your doctor before reading. Your mileage may vary. E&OE.

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