Proton Mail says that the new Outlook app for Windows is Microsoft's new data collection service

Jan 12, 2024
Updated • Jan 12, 2024

Proton has accused Microsoft's new Outlook for Windows app for becoming a data collection service. It has outlined the various ways and data that the email app harvests from end users.

Proton Mail's article is about a week old and flew under my radar, but given that user privacy is at stake, I think it warrants a discussion here. The Switzerland-based email service has termed the new Outlook as a surveillance tool that is used for targeted advertising.

Microsoft Outlook is sharing user data with 772 advertisers

According to Proton, some users in Europe who download the new Outlook for Windows app, will see a modal (pop-up) that displays a user agreement, which mentions that Microsoft shares your data with 772 third-parties. Yes, you read that right, 772. The only reason you may see that pop-up is because the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) makes it mandatory for web services to inform users about data collection and cookies. The rest of the world isn't as lucky.

Interestingly, users in the U.K. can view a "list of advertising partners" that are working with the Redmond company. Instead of a universal toggle to opt-out of these ads, the app displays a toggle for each advertising company, along with a privacy policy for each ad service. Proton says that these policies are written in a way to confuse users, allowing the companies to sell the personal data of users to third-parties.

The agreement allows these entities to do the following

  • Store and/or access information on the user’s device.
  • Develop and improve products
  • Personalize ads and content
  • Measure ads and content
  • Derive audience insights
  • Obtain precise geolocation data
  • Identify users through device scanning

I don't think users are going to mind all these companies looking over their shoulder and reading their mails, right? Actually, it is much worse than you think. Microsoft's advertising policy mentions that it does not collect personal data from emails, chats or documents for targeted ads. Data that is collected via telemetry is used to improve the user experience. But Proton says that Microsoft Outlook collects the following data from users:

  • Name and contact data
  • Passwords
  • Demographic data
  • Payment data
  • Subscription and licensing data
  • Search queries
  • Device and usage data
  • Error reports and performance data
  • Voice data
  • Text, inking, and typing data
  • Images
  • Location data
  • Content
  • Feedback and ratings
  • Traffic data

Most of those are not even related to sending and receiving mails, I'm not even sure how this can be legal. Microsoft shares the data with Service providers, User-directed entities, Payment processing providers and Third parties that perform online advertising services for Microsoft.

Even the Mac version of the new Outlook isn't spared from these shenanigans. It displays ads that look similar to message notifications. Some of these are ads come from third-parties, while some are ads for Microsoft's other apps, such as Microsoft 365.

That's just wonderful. If you want to dive in to Microsoft's Privacy Policy, read it here.

(Images via Proton and Microsoft)

Outlook "steals" your email passwords

As Martin pointed out in November 2023, German blogs, Heise and CT had discovered that syncing third-party email accounts such as Gmail, Yahoo with Outlook would allow the app to send the passwords (IMAP and SMTP credentials) and other data (emails, contacts, and calendar).

If you think that's bad, wait till you read this. You cannot use the new Outlook app without syncing these data with Microsoft's servers, i.e. your usernames and passwords are sent to the company's cloud servers. While the data is sent using TLS, the IMAP and SMTP username and password are sent to Microsoft in plain text. This could allow the company to access your emails, and share the data with third-parties.

Proton alleges that Microsoft has proven that it is no different from Google, Meta and other such companies that indulge in data collection and ad delivery services.

I can't say I like the Outlook app, the old Mail app is/was better, the new one is just a web wrapper for If you don't want to use Outlook for Windows, just right-click on the app in the Start menu and select Uninstall. You can also do this from the Settings > Apps > Installed Apps section. But, don't be surprised if Outlook comes back after a Windows Update.

Thunderbird and Apple Mail for macOS are the only desktop email clients I use, and recommend. What about you, got any favorites? Or do you use the new Outlook for Windows app?

Article Name
Proton Mail says that the new Outlook app for Windows is Microsoft's new data collection service
Proton calls the new Outlook app for Windows a data collection service that spies on users.
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  1. Chris said on April 5, 2024 at 2:58 pm

    MailMate for the win.

  2. ruaske said on January 17, 2024 at 6:29 pm

    proton itself funded by the european commission. so proton and microsoft are same sh*t different toilet

    1. Tom Baird said on April 3, 2024 at 4:18 pm

      That seems a false equivalency. Please explain how

      “proton itself funded by the european commission”

      means that

      “proton and microsoft are same sh*t different toilet

      Are you saying that Proton is monetizing user data? If so, please point to evidence to support that.

      Or are you saying that being funded by the European Commission is equivalent to being Microsoft?

      Or what?

  3. BardRT said on January 15, 2024 at 12:57 pm

    “the IMAP and SMTP username and password are sent to Microsoft in plain text. ”

    I’d love to see some proof of this.

    Recent MS changes around NOT allowing this anymore and requiring SMTP auth to be TLS 1.2 at a minimum caused plenty of headaches for people using scan to e-mail on old copiers that didn’t support modern TLS options…to hear that MS’s flagship e-mail product is somehow tossing auth info across the wire in plain text when they locked it down for absolutely every legacy option around is a bit baffling.

    1. Pete said on April 3, 2024 at 3:54 pm

      I think the subtle distinction they are making isn’t that encryption isn’t used for transport, but rather they are claiming that MS keeps copies of your passwords on their servers that they have access to in plain text. For a desktop app it can be argued this is not necessary to provide the service. A privacy minded service would encrypt stored passwords so that only the client/owner can access them.

  4. Pedro said on January 15, 2024 at 1:00 am

    What do you think about Wino Mail? Its a email client based in outlook

  5. Tachy said on January 14, 2024 at 5:26 pm

    Has anyone actually read “” ?

    Anyone who is suprised by is guilty of ignorance due to apathy.

    Just keep clicking yes and look the other way, nothing to see here.

    1. Jackie said on April 4, 2024 at 2:02 pm

      Tachy, if you have never seen it, please watch the documentary Terms and Conditions May Apply. It is about 10-15 years old now and it covers not only the kind of nasty stuff that you often find in these agreements, but also the complete ridiculousness of expecting people to actually read them. The amount of time you’d have to dedicate to reading all of these shrinkwrap contracts would drawf your time actually using the services.

  6. Tim said on January 14, 2024 at 9:09 am

    The problem is most Windows users don’t care. The same can be said about the clients of Google and other IT companies that harvest consumer data.

  7. ard said on January 13, 2024 at 7:24 am

    my favorite email client is ProtonMail. use Gmail as a trash email box for adverts, and all kind of un-important stuff where you are forced to give an email..

  8. Peterc said on January 13, 2024 at 6:45 am

    “I’m not even sure how this can be legal.”

    At this point, Microsoft is one of the transnational mega-corporations who appear to *dictate* what is legal in the Western bloc. They’re not even paying *lip service* to privacy anymore.

  9. Anonymous said on January 12, 2024 at 10:54 pm

    The other reason I’m still on Windows 7 Microsoft is becoming a scam company and has lost its path.

  10. Franck said on January 12, 2024 at 7:51 pm

    If only Thunderbird could support Exchange natively…

  11. Naimless said on January 12, 2024 at 5:38 pm

    Yeah it’s going to get worse with their ChatGPT running in a background of Windows. MS will know everything you do on your laptop.

  12. Tom Hawack said on January 12, 2024 at 5:32 pm

    When I started computing on-line, I mean discovering the Web, year 2000, someone would have told me that on-line advertisement would be the lot in the coming years, I wouldn’t have been that surprised, but having been told that tracking the user would become a social phenomenon that I wouldn’t have believed at all.

    And people swallow. That is even more surprising.

    In my modest computing environment and knowledge I nevertheless try to avoid, bypass tracking as much as I can. That includes the big corporations, GAFAM as we know them. More feasible on Windows 7 : no idea how I’ll avoid a nervous breakdown with Windows 11, or shall it be 12, if I ever follow the years with the worst they bring.

    I’m still in a comfortable niche, thinking, computing, behaving in the face of the Web as I have for the last 25 years or so. Times are changing and I’ll have to face it sooner or later. Disenchantment is my soul’s cry when I read day after day what is becoming of the digital era, the “normalisation” of practices (user, citizen tracking) that in older times would have been kicked in the balls by anyone on Earth. Now people accept, within an attitude I’d compare in its scheme to plain and vulgar prostitution, when minds replace bodies.

    Can you smell that odor of putrefaction? Worse day by day. I know that the very moment I’ll have my last breath they’ll be a smile on my face. I hope nevertheless as late as possible, but I know I’ll be relieved.

  13. Shawn said on January 12, 2024 at 5:15 pm

    Reduced energy consumption and carbon emissions with Windows 11 22H2

    Ya from this magic word line Windows 11 is built for one purpose a WEF tool for their agenda. It’s spyware all of it.

    So ya stay safe and if you don’t need to be connected on the internet remove your lan wire.

    Your data definitely not safe with a standard windows install..

  14. Don Gregory said on January 12, 2024 at 5:04 pm

    Actually, I used Proton Mail. I have for a couple of years now, and it’s excellent.

  15. Tony said on January 12, 2024 at 4:13 pm

    Microsoft Edge is their data collection tool. The new Outlook is just ran on top of Edge Webview (from what I understand anyway). By using Microsoft products, you are basically giving them permission share ALL of your data with their 800 partners.

  16. bruh said on January 12, 2024 at 3:37 pm

    imagine using outlook outside of work!!! lmao

  17. nunof said on January 12, 2024 at 3:05 pm

    What would be interesting to know is how does this compare to Gmail data collection. Regardless most people don’t care that they are being surveilled like this and some even believe it’s worth it if it means free apps and “better” ads.

  18. Bob said on January 12, 2024 at 1:39 pm

    Well… they arent wrong.

    One more reason to avoid big tech and their dark patterns

  19. Midnight said on January 12, 2024 at 12:48 pm

    Not the least bit surprised!

    Microslop steals anything and everything it can from its users.

    Thunderbird is the only email client that I use and also recommend that everybody do the same.

    1. Toxic said on January 12, 2024 at 1:38 pm

      Use Better Bird,way more better

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