Microsoft Customer Experience Improvement Program

Note: When I first read this, I thought the date on the page was 2006, but its 2005, so this has been around for a bit.
Got this windows notification in my taskbar today, a Microsoft Office icon, upon clicking it said:
We invite you to join our Customer Experience Improvement Program to improve the quality, reliability and performance of Microsoft software and services.

If you accept, we will collect anonymous information about your hardware configuration and how you use our software and services to identify trends and usage patterns. We will also periodically download a small file to your computer that enables us to collect information about specific errors you encountered while using Microsoft software. When available, new help information about the errors will also be automatically downloaded.

We will not collect your name, address, or any other personally identifiable information. There are no surveys to complete, no salesperson will call, and you can continue working without interruption. It is simple, user-friendly, and completely anonymous. You can leave this program at any time by clicking Help | Customer Feedback Options to return to this dialog. Click here for a screenshot.

The options are yes, recommended and no. It has a link to read more about the program, when clicked it takes you to a page, here, with the following information:

At Microsoft, we know that the best products are the ones our customers can use to their fullest potential. To design our products, we gather direct customer feedback by conducting usability tests, surveys, focus groups, and other types of field research.

However, hundreds of millions of people use Microsoft products, so it is impossible for us to contact most of our customers in person to get their feedback. The Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP) was created to give all Microsoft customers the ability to contribute to the design and development of Microsoft products.

CEIP collects information about how you use Microsoft programs and about some of the problems you encounter. Microsoft uses this information to improve the products and features you use most often and to help solve problems. Participation in the program is strictly voluntary, and the end results are software improvements to better meet your needs. To learn more, read our FAQ.

How does CEIP work?
When you choose to participate, Windows automatically sends information to Microsoft about how you use certain products. Information from your computer is combined with other CEIP data to help Microsoft solve problems and to improve the products and features customers use most often.

Will CEIP collect information about all products on my computer?
No. CEIP only collects information about Microsoft products and you must choose to participate on a product-by-product basis.

Will I be contacted or receive spam if I participate?
No. No information collected by CEIP can be used to contact you. This means you will not be asked to participate in surveys or to read junk e-mail, and you will not be contacted in any other way.

If I choose to participate, can I opt out later?
Yes. Most programs make CEIP options available from the Help menu, although for some products, you might need to check settings or options menus. You can choose to start or stop participating at any time.

Is the Customer Experience Improvement Program spyware?
No. Spyware can collect information or act on your computer without your full knowledge or consent. CEIP does not take actions other than those described in the privacy policy and you can choose to start or stop participating at any time.

Can I review the information before it is sent to Microsoft?
Unfortunately the information can’t be reviewed for a couple of reasons:

? The Customer Experience Improvement Program was designed to enable millions of customers to participate. To support such a large number of customers sending data, the collected information is recorded so that the Microsoft servers can efficiently process all the data. Due to the nature of this encoding, it would be difficult for most customers to review the information.

? Applications which use CEIP typically send data to Microsoft servers after the application is closed. Rather than displaying a dialog when the application is trying to close to review the information and interrupting your work, the data is sent automatically.

For these reasons, the CEIP program limits the type of information that can be collected and how that information can be used. The privacy statement describes the type of information that can be collected and how Microsoft uses the information.

We recognize that some customers might be uncomfortable allowing the information collected by CEIP to be sent without having an opportunity to review it fully even though the information does not contain contact information and is governed by the privacy statement. If you are uncomfortable with sharing this information, please choose not to participate.

How does Microsoft protect my privacy if I choose to participate?
CEIP does not collect any information that can be used to contact you. More details are provided in the Customer Experience Improvement Program Privacy Policy.

If you choose to participate in CEIP for a product, you can also find information about privacy and data collection in the privacy policies for individual products.

There is a privacy policy page containing this information,

CEIP reports generally include information about:

  • Configuration, such as how many processors are in your computer, how many network connections you use, which version of Windows is running, and if some features such as Bluetooth wireless technology or high-speed USB connections are turned on.
  • Performance and reliability, such as how quickly a program responds when you click a button, how many problems you experience with a program or a device, and how quickly information is sent or received over a network connection.
  • Program use, such as the features that you use the most often, how often you use the Help and Support Center, and how many folders you typically create on your desktop.

This information is sent to Microsoft when you are connected to the Internet. CEIP reports do not contain any contact information about you (such as your name, address, or phone number). Although the IP address through which you access the Internet is sent to Microsoft with each CEIP report, Microsoft does not use it. CEIP generates a globally unique identifier (GUID) that is stored on your computer to uniquely identify it. The GUID is a randomly generated number; it does not contain any personal information and is not used to identify you. CEIP uses the GUID to distinguish how widespread the feedback we receive is and how to prioritize it. For example, the GUID allows Microsoft to distinguish between one customer experiencing a problem one hundred times and other customers experiencing the same problem once. The GUID is stored on your computer and sent with every CEIP report.

I went ahead and said yes, check out the program, see what it does, if it is intrusive, etc. As long as I can turn it off, it shouldn’t be a big deal, and if it can help make Office better, why not?