Microsoft Office diagnostic info- tell them a little or a lot but always tell Microsoft

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The latest early release of Office for Windows/Mac gives you ‘choices’ for sharing diagnostic information about Office.  You can choose to send Microsoft a lot of information or just a little data but you can’t refuse completely.

There are legitimate questions about what information is being sent to Microsoft and how it’s being used. That includes being combined with other data to discover more about individual companies or individuals.

The corporate culture at Microsoft has always been arrogant and assured of its own righteousness.  These ‘choices’ are just the latest example of it.

Basic or Full

Overall, Office gives you only two choices for sharing info about your use of Office:

Basic: “only data necessary to keep Office programs up to date, functioning properly and secure”

Full: “additional information that enables Microsoft to fix and improve its’ products for all users.”

Microsoft fuller (but not complete) explanation is copied below.

Careful Wording

Microsoft is careful in its wording to trick people into thinking the data sent is limited and required.  They say the data sent is ‘necessary’ which is definitely is not.

Redmond also says the data “cannot be used to identify a particular user” but that’s not entirely true.  While the info sent by Office alone might be anonymous, it can be combined with other information to identify an individual computer or user.  That kind of data matching is common, not least by Facebook in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Nothing in the diagnostic data disclosure is binding.  Only what’s in Microsoft’s Terms and Conditions could be enforceable.

‘None’ is not an option

What’s missing is a ‘None’ choice.  Microsoft’s policy is that paying customers must inform the company about their use of Office, no matter what.

It’s fair that ‘Insiders’ for Windows or Office have to share diagnostic data.  That’s part of the Insiders ‘deal’; people get an advance look at new/changed features in exchange for Microsoft getting more information about how Office is being used.

Regular ‘non-Insider’ users should have the choice not to share ‘diagnostic data’.  In some cases they might be legally or contractually stopped from revealing anything, however insignificant.

Diagnostic data in Office

This is Microsoft’s current explanation of the two diagnostic data options as stated at Diagnostic Data in Office.

” What data is collected and why

The scope of diagnostic data sent will depend on whether you choose Full or Basic as your diagnostic data setting. This anonymized data is sent to Microsoft and used solely to help us understand application issues. No personal data is collected and the diagnostic information we gather cannot be used to identify a particular user.

At the Basic level we collect only data necessary to keep Office programs up to date, functioning properly and secure. Basic data includes information about the program itself, the proper function of Office, and basic error data. We collect the following data at the Basic level:

  • Connectivity and configuration data such as the version of Office in use; and the name, version, and publisher of any add-ins installed and being used in Office
  • Whether Office is ready for an update and if there are factors that may impede the ability to receive updates
  • Whether updates install successfully
  • Data about the reliability of the diagnostics collection system
  • Basic error reporting, which is health data about the Office programs running on your device; for example if a program such as Word hangs or crashes

Full data includes everything collected with Basic data, plus additional information that enables Microsoft to fix and improve its’ products for all users. The following list includes examples of the additional information Office collects at the Full level.

  • Additional data about Office connectivity and configuration beyond that collected at the Basic level
  • Application usage, such as which Office programs are opened on a device, how long they run, which processes they use, and how quickly they respond to input
  • Enhanced error reporting, including the memory state of the device when program crash occurs (which may unintentionally contain parts of a file you were using when the problem occurred)
  • To help you get the most out of Office, we may tell you about features you may not know about or that are new

No personal data is intentionally collected and the diagnostic information we gather cannot be used to identify a particular user.  “

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