Small businesses using Skype or other Microsoft services will soon have to mind their Ps and Qs — and just about every other letter or word transmitted or published as content on these platforms.
A new Microsoft Service Agreement going into effect May 1, 2018 includes many changes many changes. But the one raising the most eyebrows involves the Code of Conduct Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) expects from users on its Skype, Office, Xbox live and other services.
When the new service agreement  goes into effect, using offensive language and inappropriate content on Microsoft’s various platforms could potentially result in punitive actions by the company.
Microsoft Bans Offensive Language
Of course, you probably don’t use profanity laced language in your small business communications! But one of the biggest questions raised by the new policy is what constitute “offensive” and “inappropriate.”
And another obvious concern the policy raises is privacy. How does Microsoft intend to ensure its policy is followed? In the agreement the company states ” … we cannot monitor the entire Services and make no attempt to do so.” But this statement only raises more questions.
For example, Microsoft says it reserves the right to remove or refuse to publish content which violates the terms of the new Code of Conduct for any reason. But in order to take these actions, Microsoft would presumably have to investigate to resolve the issue. And this would most likely involve reviewing content.
At the moment, Xbox Live users are making the most noise because the penalty can result in the suspension or ban from participation in Xbox Services. This can include the forfeiture of content licenses, Xbox Gold Membership time and Microsoft account balances associated with the violator.
Of more interest to small businesses, enforcement can include the stoppage of services and/or closing of your Microsoft account. The company also says it may block the delivery of communication such as email, file sharing or instant messages.
Here is the Code of Conduct exactly as it was published in the new service agreement:
- Don’t do anything illegal.
- Don’t engage in any activity that exploits, harms, or threatens to harm children.
- Don’t send spam. Spam is unwanted or unsolicited bulk email, postings, contact requests, SMS (text messages), or instant messages.
- Don’t publicly display or use the Services to share inappropriate content or material (involving, for example, nudity, bestiality, pornography, offensive language, graphic violence, or criminal activity).
- Don’t engage in activity that is fraudulent, false or misleading (e.g., asking for money under false pretenses, impersonating someone else, manipulating the Services to increase play count, or affect rankings, ratings, or comments).
- Don’t circumvent any restrictions on access to or availability of the Services.
- Don’t engage in activity that is harmful to you, the Services, or others (e.g., transmitting viruses, stalking, posting terrorist content, communicating hate speech, or advocating violence against others).
- Don’t infringe upon the rights of others (e.g., unauthorized sharing of copyrighted music or other copyrighted material, resale or other distribution of Bing maps, or photographs).
- Don’t engage in activity that violates the privacy of others.
- Don’t help others break these rules.
The Privacy Issue
The issue of privacy will continue to be front and center as Mark Zuckerberg prepares to appear before Congress in the coming weeks regarding the Cambridge Analytica scandal at Facebook . People will undoubtedly also be asking how intently Microsoft will be reviewing content communicated via Skype, Office, Xbox Live and other services. And what does the company intend to do with all of this information?
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