Windows 10 to Scan User Emails

John Lister's picture

Windows virtual assistant Cortana will soon step up scanning of emails by default, in order to make Cortana more useful. Whether its an improvement or a sign of creepiness on Microsoft's part is up for debate. The announcement comes almost 3 years to the date, where Microsoft publicly launched a campaign named "Don't get scroogled by Gmail." In that campaign, Microsoft complained that Google's email scanning practice was unjust.

Email Scanning Takes Note of Schedule

Cortana's new email scanning is being tested among Windows Insiders - the group of users who have signed up to get early access to work-in-progress features in Windows 10.

The new feature builds on existing tools which automatically make a note of any flight times and package delivery numbers mentioned in emails, which in turn makes this information more easily accessible through Cortana. Cortana is then accessible through voice commands, which makes it valuable for users that are on the run and don't have time to manually perform searches.

Emailed Appointments Added To Calendar

With the new 'Commitment' tools, Cortana can make note whenever you might need to arrange to do something at or by a particular time, such as completing a report. It will then offer to schedule the report to your schedule, which will then send reminders that the relevant date and time is approaching.

Microsoft is also working on having Cortana's calendar learn your usual working hours, based on factors such as when you send and receive emails. It will then use this information to warn you if somebody has requested a meeting outside of these hours. (Source:

Out-Of-Hours Meetings Trigger Warning

The tool will also send instant alerts in the event of a late request; for example, if you get an email in the evening asking for an early morning appointment the next day.

Although the tool will be turned on by default (which is likely to be the case once its rolled out to all users), there will be an option to turn it off.

Microsoft also says that the email scanning itself will only take place on your computer and no data from messages will be sent to Microsoft. Details of the reminders themselves will be sent to Microsoft if and when you agree to add a reminder, which then allows you to access the information or receive the alert on any device on which you are signed in to your account. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Would you like to use Cortana's new email scanning ability in order to make scheduling appointments easier? Are you unnerved by Microsoft scanning your emails, even with the stated safeguards? Should such tools be on or off by default?

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Dennis Faas's picture

If you've ever used a Google Voice on a smartphone, then you already know how useful it is to be able to perform a search with your voice and have Google talk back to you with the information it found while scanning the entire Internet.

In this respect, Microsoft is hoping to achieve the same greatness - except it's performing searches on a slightly smaller level, and then keeping track of it in an organized manner.

If you're on the go and you need this type of organization (where typically a secretary would perform these actions), then I say this is a great feature to have. If you're not using Cortana, then you'd probably want to disable the feature as it will no doubt eat away at resources and slow down your system.

Boots66's picture

Dennis, what I unfortunately feel you have missed here, is that everyone of the
'options' that Microsoft is being allowed to turn on automatically, is an invasion of your privacy!! Plain and simple! If they are keeping any track of it at all, it is an invasion of your privacy!
The Cable TV companies got their butts kicked back in the '80's for almost the same thing - They tried to bill for turning on a block of TV channels without your permission.
If I want these services from Microsoft, like Hotmail, Office365, OneDrive, Cortina Scanning & Scheduling, then Microsoft can make a big deal of telling me of these features, and making it easy for me to turn them on !!

IF I chose to do so! Otherwise they stay turned off!

It should not be a major effort for me to have to find some logical switch to turn off this automatic crap if I don't want it on!

plamonica_3840's picture

Really? How many things do people give away to online and offline services every day. Have you ever read the agreements for all those apps you install? Almost all say they take personal information and studies show that they mostly do even if they don't say so. Ever use an Echo? Every word you speak to that device is recorded and logged, do you really thing Google is not using all that info?

We agree to allow these devices to use this information every day, at least I can turn it off here and things still work, try that on an app or on Echo and the app will not work at all.

kitekrazy's picture

I'm a desktop user so there is no point in using Cortana unless you like added confusion.

nospam_5346's picture

The thing is that people seem to have accepted being spied on with their phone. If you look at the privacy statements of most apps, you will see that they all track you and use your phone as an electronic billboard.

However, most PC users have a different attitude when it comes to privacy.

The problem is that Windows 10 is still a phone/tablet OS and is geared toward that market so they never considered that PC users would object to the spying and tracking.

The other problem is that you really don't know if "turning it off" really turns it off. Cortana for instance still loads into memory and still sends data to Microsoft even when turned off.

I don't have a smart phone because I don't want to be tracked. And, I don't use Windows 10 on my PC, I removed all of the telemetry updates they've pushed out to Windows 7, and I have multiple programs to block anything that gets by these measures.