back to article Microsoft Cortana EULA contains the Greatest Disclaimer of ALL TIME

Nobody ever reads click-through licences. Especially not on phones, where the legalese can run to hundreds of pages. But oh, what gems can be found in there. We found this by accident in the click-through licence to use the Windows Phone 8.1 Developer Preview. It refers to the new "intelligent assistant", Cortana. We think …


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  1. Neil Hoskins


    ... that's got more to do with demonstrating it to your mum:

    "Cortana, open a web site I might like."

    "OK, 'sex with vegetables' coming up."

    1. CommanderGalaxian

      Re: Shirley...

      Is there a noodie version of Cortana?

  2. Tommy Pock

    This is Cortana's second job. Her first was manning the customer service phones at British Gas

  3. Sir Runcible Spoon


    I'm surprised you didn't find a clause about not being responsible for it being unfaithful, are you sure they didn't lift that stuff from a pre-nup?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Far cry from "Bill Gate's Towel Boy", though...

    Apologies to Scott Adams...

  5. adnim

    Nothing new here...

    Where in any of the Microsoft EULA's does it say "We guarantee this software to be accurate, reliable and secure"?

    All software EULA's and not just Microsoft EULA's are to protect the developer against legal action from providing software that is broken, fails to perform as can be reasonably expected or can easily be broken by normal usage.

    Basically much of what an EULA states is that the developer is not responsible for the quality of the product and that if using the product causes any loss, it is then it is the fault of the end user.

    1. Oninoshiko

      How I learned to stop worrying and love software licenses.

      Yep, other licenses that do the same thing: GPL, BSD, CDDL, MIT

      Honestly, it's not even worth complaining about.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: How I learned to stop worrying and love software licenses.

        "Honestly, it's not even worth complaining about."

        And you find this acceptable?

      2. DN4

        Re: How I learned to stop worrying and love software licenses.

        The other licenses you mention say ‘you got this software for free and we hope you'll find it useful but you may also find it to be crap’ and that's fair IMO. Proprietary software EULAs, on the other hand...

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    I can't shake the feeling that Agenda is *still* the SoA in "intelligent assistance"

    Which is pretty f**king sad.

  7. John P

    Has anyone taken a look at the Siri and GoogleNow Terms to see if they contain a similar clause? This seems like the kind of standard arse-covering legalese that the lawyers would apply regardless of the company's faith in the product.

  8. nematoad Silver badge

    " Microsoft does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, reliability, availability or timeliness..."

    Sounds pretty much to me the description of everything that Microsoft throws our way.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      sounds pretty much like the disclaimer for every search engine.

      1. FrankAlphaXII

        Yes it does.

        It also sounds like the As-Is clause in just about every software license. As someone indicated above the GPL, CDDL, BSD, MIT, X11, MPL, NPL, and probably just about every other obscure software licensing scheme that you can think of always disclaim that the developer isn't responsible if the software screws something up.

        Imagine being able to sue someone for creating a software package with a chain of dependencies that breaks another package, or in the older eras of the Microsoft world being able to sue someone for creating a .dll hell situation on your machine.

  9. plrndl

    Ha ha ha. Ha ha ha. Ha ha ha. Ha ha ha.

    Can't wait for the follow up stories.

  10. Barry Dingle


    is she pretty at least?

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Well,

      She's rather underdressed for the weather...

  11. Martijn Otto

    Don't read Microsoft EULA's

    Don't use their products anyway.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't read Microsoft EULA's

      Don't worry - I'm sure I'm not the only one you've impressed.

  12. frank ly

    "... personalized experiences provided by Cortana."

    Would you want to have a personalised experience with an assistant like that?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And this is different

    to Siri and Andy how, exactley???

  14. Brian Sherwood Jones

    Software ought to be goods

    These EULA thingies are awful. If software were treated as 'goods' the Sale of Goods Act, Consumer Protection etc. would stop this sort of cop-out. Shows how far we are in serfdom to the Silicon Valley barons.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Software ought to be goods

      How would you stop the information being inacurate or embarassing?

      If you regularly search for pr0n on Bing, then it will probably start offering up sex sites and sex shops for you, even if you are in front of your boss or partner...

      Microsoft, Google and Apple can't really do much about it, if you keep feeding their services with "misleading" information i.e. you privately search for things that you wouldn't want to turn up if other people are in ear shot. But the search engine probably can't tell whether you are on your own or it is about to embarass you in front of a bunch of people, because it offers up results about randy nuns to your request...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Software ought to be goods

        This is why I use one search engine in front of coworkers and family, but a different one elsewhere.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Software ought to be goods


          Did the PC Police come calling today?

          What's wrong with 'colleagues'?

          As I'm currently in the USA where the average IQ is about -100 and there are disclaimers for everything including a 2 page beast just so that I can go around a Railroad Depot on its one open day of the year. mind you touching anything is impossible as there are miles of Yellow 'Caution' tape everywhere that stop you from even getting close, I suppose they need it.

          This is also the place where nearly everyone drive a huge pickup, many with rifle racks in the cabs behind the drivers that are also full with weaponry, you tend not to argue with anyone.

          Land of the Free where just about everything is against the Law.

          Kid you not, there is even a law in the next county prohibiting men from farting in Public. The penalty is 10 days jail.

          1. croc

            Re: Software ought to be goods

            I just love it when co-workers is not hyphenated, I tend to read it as cow orkers. Which, given where you state you live seems to somehow make sense to me.

          2. big_D Silver badge

            Re: Software ought to be goods

            I have a German friend who was an exchange student in California during the late 80s. Germany is known as being very officious, and there are a lot of rules here, but those rules tend to define freedoms, not take them away. He was amazed how many things he took for granted in Germany were illegal in LA.

          3. Martin Maloney

            Re: Software ought to be goods

            "Kid you not, there is even a law in the next county prohibiting men from farting in Public. The penalty is 10 days jail."

            I have a work-around for that:

            1) Practice farting silently, until you are consistent.

            2) Only fart in crowded elevators, and then, like everyone else, gaze around, in an attempt to identify the culprit.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Software ought to be goods

        "How would you stop it?"

        I'll just leave this here. Anonymously, for obvious reasons.

    2. Tom 35

      Re: Software ought to be goods

      Lots of the stuff in EULA has no legal backing, they just hope you will not take them to court.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: Lots of the stuff in EULA has no legal backing

        The EULA has no legal backing. You can only agree to it once you have forked over the money and removed the shrinkwrap. Following where you are in the world, doing that can void your possibility of returning the software you bought.

        Even if you can return it, you still cannot read the EULA before you have installed the product, making the EULA anything but a contract.

        If you check up on your commercial law, I'm pretty sure that, whatever your country, you will find that a "contract" is an agreement between two parties to exchange goods for currency, or something approaching that. The key notion here "agreement" : you cannot agree to something you can't read before having already paid for it.

        The fact that we're talking about EULAs at all is simply because, as of right now, nobody wants to enforce anything legal about them because doing so would require shops to house stacks and stacks of EULAs for their customers to read before making the purchase. And nobody wants that to happen.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Lots of the stuff in EULA has no legal backing

          @Pascal and that is why the clause for not installing OS X on non-Apple products was not binding in Germany, because the customer cannot read the EULA before they bought OS X DVDs in electronics stores.

  15. dan1980

    So close!

    It seems that my secret wish has been heard by a particularly mischievous genie who has made Cortana more like my girlfriend, rather than the other way around.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And this is in any

    way different to Siri and Andy how, exactley??

  17. big_D Silver badge

    I would say that your interpretation is a little off.

    I would think it means, if you search a lot for porn on Bing, Cortana will start reminding you in a loud voice when the latest copy of buxom babes becomes available.

    Or if you have been doing research for a medical condition for a relative, it might assume you have the condition, after all, you searched for "impotence," not "uncle Bob has impotence, what can be done about it?" (Probably watching more buxom babes)

    Likewise, like Google Now, if you change jobs or move house, it will take a few days for it to register that you are now regularly driving to a different location.

  18. Crisp

    Are they sure that this is unintended behaviour?

    Or has Cortana discovered a more subtle interpretation of the three laws of robotics?

    1. tony2heads

      Re: Are they sure that this is unintended behaviour?

      Possibly 3 extra laws should be added

      - Creep people out as much as possible

      - Embarrass the owner at all times

      - Feedback all information to appropriate spy agencies

  19. F111F

    Marriage EULA?

    MS obviously stole this from my wife...

    ...mine's the one with the 4,600 page marriage EULA in the pocket (abridged version)..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Marriage EULA?

      The difference is that with the software you had the opportunity to read the EULA first. Although there is a comparison with those licence terms that unilaterally change after you've agreed them, leaving you to choose between agreeing to something you'd never have signed for in the first place, or dumping the whole deal and everything you've invested in it...

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    in the present day

    of crowdfunding, crowsourcing and crowd-bug-fixing, and business expense streamlining, I believe many free Cortinas (was it Cortina?) are employed, pardon me, offer their free support (no terms and conditions) to successful, world-renowned businesses, and both parties thrive. After all, if politicans can do it, why not businesses? Microsoft only follow the (twitter) trend.

  21. Anonymous Coward 101

    I think Cortana was recently employed by the Premier League

    "Like a real-world personal assistant, sometimes Cortana may...(iv) use compromising information gleaned about you to flog to the Sunday Mirror.

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: I think Cortana was recently employed by the Premier League

      Ah cool, I would never have figured out that was the gag the author was aiming for without your helpful assistance here. Could you explain the chicken-crossing-road joke again though, I still don't get it - something to do with the fact he is not on the other side at the moment!

  22. Ralph B

    "At least Cortana won't sell your emails to the newspapers."

    Well, it hadn't until you planted that profitable-sounding idea in Microsoft's collective head. Thanks a lot, Reg!

    (It's not as if they don't have a motive already.)

  23. Crazy Operations Guy

    Why do people want voice assistants anyway?

    Whenever my coworkers try to use one, they end up fighting it for a couple minutes because it can't understand them for one reason or another. Half the time it ends up calling random people we work with or adding appointments to their calendars. I usually just type whatever we are looking for into my phone and then just enjoy the Sisyphean display going on in front of me.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So ture to life - AC for a reason

    sometimes I won't even turn up. Basically I'm a really creepy, inappropriately honest drunk

  25. PaulR79


    In general I tend to boil EULAs down to a simple sentence.

    "Do you want to use <product>? Click Agree if you do, or Cancel."

    There are a lot more specifics to it I know but ultimately that's what it comes down to in the end. Obviously if it's something important I'd try to skim it for glaring "You owe us your first born" points but that's my general way of dealing with EULAs.

  26. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    It's OK really

    I never intend to use it, nor any other comupter 'assistant'. Also, I never read EULAs and always assume commercial software is at least 60% borked.

  27. Zot

    Just tell it to

    'FECK OFF!" all the time, and never say anything else to it. Just that.

    It won't quit now will it?

    No it won't - perhaps an opportunity missed by the programmers.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't see the problem

    You might not hire someone who says that as a personal assistant, but I'd expect more from a person I'm paying $50K a year (or whatever a personal assistant makes) than a free feature on a device I was going to buy anyway.

    If I hired a researcher he'd do a lot better than Google searches do for finding what I want, but I'd be paying him a lot more too.

  29. ecofeco Silver badge


    I'll bet you thought Red Dwarf and Idiocracy was comedy, right?

  30. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    THANK YOU for the text transcription

    As I sometimes browse El Reg from the console (using w3m, as lynx suXX0Rz), or from otherwise image-impaired browsers, I very much appreciate the text subtitle. Now if we could have a (even brief) summary of the videos, I would be Bob's nephew (reading shorties in which neither the title nor the body of the article let you guess anything about the content of the video, which is the actual content of the article, is very frustrating!). I'm sure it could be done unintrusively thanks to that wonderful instrument included in standard HTML, "alt". I'm sure you've heard of it.

    1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: THANK YOU for the text transcription

      Interesting. All our videos have markup for text-only readers which is a brief summary of what the video's about. Is that not working for you?

      1. ElReg!comments!Pierre

        Re: THANK YOU for the text transcription

        Most definitely NOT working for me; for example in the story

        all I see in lieu of the video is the text "YouTube Video" (which is in accordance with the page source, if somewhat uninformative); no other info available.

        I can follow the "YouTube Video" link; then on the YouTube page I can find the video description, but that's a bit complicated (made a bit worse by the fact that YouTube's website is not especially optimized for text browsers...).

        1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          Re: Re: THANK YOU for the text transcription

          > all I see in lieu of the video is the text "YouTube Video"

          We do try to put in captions and descriptions for people using terminal browsers and what have you. We'll try harder next time.


  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is this thing ClippyNG?

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    is it just me?

    Or did anyone else on seeing the visual representation of Cortana think "This was designed by boys"

    Not the coders, the people who thought "What would really lift this over Siri - that's right tits!",

    "and a skin tight suit! right boss?"

    Little boys in suits, I tell you.

    (edited to remove the word wankers)

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: is it just me?

      "This was designed by boys"

      It was designed for Halo, a Microsoft-owned game. Redmond uses the same name across the two systems, because Cortana is supposed to be some personal assistant thing. The official Cortana logo looks like this.


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: is it just me?

        OK, just an unfortunate early visual association from web reports then, I should read the words more.

        The symbol is actually a blue circle, that is now solid, cemented in my mind.

      2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: is it just me?

        At least the xbox/halo Cortana has a vaguely realistic human body shape. Reading up on it (like you do), apparently the latest version was designed by a female designer which may go some way to explaining why there's a hint of reality there.

        Now if MS were to redesign the windows phone Cortana to be red and perhaps give it a theme song. Something appropriate like "Daisy, daisy..."...

  33. Elf

    Courtesy, never goes out of style.

    I rarely use lynx anymore but It's nice to know that I still can.

  34. egbegb

    The comment dialogue pretty much describes the state-of-the-art for Cortana, Siri and Robin. The collection of personal data is a two edged sword. I cannot control that other edge. Hence, everything I tell my 'iphone' I expect to show up in the New York Times gossip pages.

  35. Gil Grissum

    Alrighty then. Won't be considering Windows Phone. And I was getting interested in Cortana. Looks like I'll be avoiding that relationship now. :-)

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