Microsoft tracks your use of Office 365, just as it does with Windows and other products and services. The purpose of such data collection, says Microsoft, is to improve the software and give you a more personalized experience. The collection of certain data is also necessary for specific features in Office, so you can’t fully turn off the tap without hampering your ability to use the software. Still, knowing what data Microsoft gathers about you and why can be informative and beneficial.
SEE: Encryption: A guide for business leaders (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
You can review and check your privacy settings directly from any Office 365 program, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The suite offers dedicated settings for Account Privacy through which you can read FAQs on the Office data collection and then decide which settings to enable or disable. Different versions of Office provide access to privacy settings, but for this article, I’m focusing on Office 365.
LEARN MORE: Office 365 Consumer pricing and features
To start, open Word, Excel, or PowerPoint. Click on the File menu, select Account, and then click the Manage Settings button under Account Privacy. If for some reason this button is not available, you can get there by going the long way: Click on File, select Options, click on Trust Center, click the button for Trust Center Settings, and then click the button for Privacy Settings. The Privacy Settings screen appears (Figure A).
The first section for Required Diagnostic Data discusses diagnostic information that Microsoft requires for you to run Office and keep it updated. This may include such basic data as your version of Windows and whether the latest updates installed successfully. If Office crashes, Microsoft collects certain data about the crash for troubleshooting purposes. To read more details, click the Learn More link to open a web page on Diagnostic Data in Office.
The next section for Optional Diagnostic Data has diagnostic information that’s not required but may help troubleshoot certain issues. Microsoft also uses such data to improve Office. As one example, the company may track how long it takes for a thumbnail version of a PowerPoint slide to render to see if it can speed up this task. By default, this type of data is disabled. Clicking the Learn More link takes you to the web page on Diagnostic Data in Office. If you’re fine sharing this kind of information with Microsoft, check the box to Send Additional Diagnostic And Usage Data To Microsoft; otherwise, leave it unchecked (Figure B).
Scroll down to Connected Experiences to review the section on Experiences that analyze your content. The data collected here is used to provide you with suggestions and recommendations on how to use Office. As examples, the PowerPoint Designer tool analyzes your slides to suggest design changes and relevant images, the translator in Office analyzes your written words to translate them into another language, and the dictation tool analyzes your spoken words to convert them into text. Click the Learn More link to get more details and see a list of all the Office features that require this type of data. The data collection here is checked by default; if you’re concerned about privacy, you could uncheck the option, but keep in mind that the dependent features in Office will no longer work.
The next section for Experiences That Download Online Content describes data collection that analyzes your searches to download fonts, templates, images, and other items. Click the Learn More link to see a list of all the features reliant on this information–this one is enabled by default. As with the previous setting, you can turn it off, but then certain features in Office would no longer function properly (Figure C).
Next, the section for All Connected Experiences points to data collection for all online content. This type of collection analyzes your Office content to download relevant online content. It also looks at such items as your online storage and any co-authoring settings for an Office document. Click the Learn More link to view the web page on Connected Experiences In Office. Scroll down to the last section on the page for Controlling These Experiences to get more details; like the previous settings, this one is turned on by default. If you turn it off, certain online tasks will continue to function, including syncing Outlook mailboxes, downloading updates, and checking licenses, but other Office and Outlook features will no longer work (Figure D).
If you’re concerned about your privacy or want to learn more about Microsoft’s data collection, click the link for Microsoft Privacy Statement at the bottom of the Privacy Settings screen. This takes you to a Microsoft web page that explains what data is collected, how it’s used, and how to control your personal information for all Microsoft products and services.