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How to manage your personal data in Microsoft accounts

Google, Facebook, and other major players have long let users control their personal data. Now Microsoft is taking steps in the same direction with its Personal Data Dashboard.

The battle to maintain your privacy online takes a fair amount of work -- and attention. Some companies try to make it easier on us, but others are relatively new to the game. Microsoft is taking a few steps in the right direction with its Personal Data Dashboard, where you can review and edit some of the data Microsoft keeps on you.

Here's how to use it:

  1. Sign into Windows Live. If you don't have a Windows Live account, the Dashboard won't help you, but that also means that the information Microsoft collects on you is harder to trace back to you individually.
  2. Point your browser to the Personal Data Dashboard.
  3. You start by viewing your profile information. If it's wrong or you want to add or subtract information, click "Edit your profile in Windows Live" and you'll be taken to a new tab to make your changes.
  4. Click My Data at the top to view the information Microsoft keeps about you. You can check and change Interests, Brands, and Newsletters, and also prune your Bing search history. (Note: this may be buggy, as my Dashboard showed no searches, whereas checking my history on Bing showed quite a few.)
    Step 4: Check Microsoft data.
    Step 4: Check Microsoft data. Screenshot by Rob Lightner/CNET
  5. Click My Choices near the top to show and change which Microsoft services can use your information. Currently this is limited to Microsoft Advertising and Microsoft Email Communications. You can click next to each to turn it on or off.
  6. Click More Services near the top for links to the profile pages on other Microsoft services like Zune and Xbox. This is a handy resource if you want to spend some time changing your various accounts.

That's it! Microsoft promises more powerful tools to come, but for now, it's a great way to check what it has got on you and change your preferences.

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