Outlook / Hotmail Privacy

I recently started noticing this ‘feature’ in my Outlook-based e-mail account:

…the seemingly helpful “option” to have suggested replies available (based on the contents of the email) at the click of a button.

I’m aware that this is a feature elsewhere in other messaging services, in particular in apps on phones. It’s similar how in Yahoo! mail and Gmail that advertising appears on the page that is related to the contents of the email, and it is very concerning.

One might be lead to believe that this kind of feature is a convenience… but at what cost? All to have a one click option to include the word “Thanks!” rather than typing it!

The concern is that the e-mail is being ‘read’ (albeit by a system) and being understood so as to provide a related response, either in the form of an advert or a suggested reply. Just how secure is the exchange of our data? Of course Outlook/Hotmail/Microsoft and others really have free-reign over our data and e-mails, regardless of what we might think or what it says in their Ts&Cs.

With the Outlook example I see that it only happens when I have received a short email (because obviously a longer email would likely have a variety of topics).

Furthermore, there was neither an invitation to start using this ‘feature’ nor is there a quick and easy way to find out more or to disable it – just the Feedback option, which ironically gives you the option to send the contents of the email if you have a suggestion/issue with the results.

I delved into the Outlook settings to find out more:

Still, nowhere explains how this feature works or says that your e-mail is analysed on some other system than your own in order to provide the reply, and how else that data may be used – perhaps more would be revealed in the Ts&Cs.


  1. This is why I use 4 browsers for different purposes. I use Opera for Facebook and delete all cookies on exit, Chrome for webmail (I can do without Outlook) and financial applications, Firefox for Blogger and other google applications and so on. I have yet to see definite evidence of communication across browsers, although sometimes things look definitely suspicious. And why do I get ads for flats in Liverpool when I have never searched that but my son has?

    • That’s certainly a good tactic. I’ve found myself forced to use different browsers for things when cookies have become corrupt for certain sites and preventing me from logging in. Or, a site refuses me access because that browser is “out of date”.

      As for Ads for flats in Liverpool, it could be that a site is making an assumption based on other data – they can know what OS you are using, what your screen resolution is, plus your IP address for example. Wikipedia sent me a random message recently about an update I’d supposedly made to a page, but it turned out I wasn’t even signed in and it was guessing the edit was me based on my IP address which was assigned to someone else when the edit was made.

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