Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana has a new trick up her sleeve – one that could not only help you be more productive, but save you from forgetting to follow up on an important email.
According to Microsoft’s blog, Cortana can now send reminders for tasks based on the contents of your inbox. For example, if you promised to send your boss a copy of an important report by end-of-day Tuesday, Cortana will send you a reminder before the work day is over.
Users will then be able to set a second reminder to make sure they don’t forget.
“People often make promises to do things in email but may forget about them as the days go by and emails pile up,” wrote Marcus Ash, a member of the company’s Cortana team, in a blog post.
“Microsoft Research (MSR) was pursuing an intriguing and powerful idea around this challenge — automatically recognizing when people make commitments to one another in email messages and providing reminders.”
Cortana is directly integrated into Microsoft’s Windows 10 platform and the new Edge web browser, allowing users to find things on their computer, search the web, tell jokes and request an Uber car.
Unfortunately, this new Cortana feature won’t work if you are using a web email client, like Gmail, for example. You will have to use Microsoft’s built in email client in order for Cortana to see the contents of your outbox.
While the feature may sound useful, it’s already stirred up a bit of a privacy debate.
Users can choose to turn off Cortana altogether; however, it’s unclear whether users will be able to turn off this feature in particular if they still wish to use the voice assistant.
In a statement to Global News, a Microsoft spokesperson said, “With Cortana, and across Windows 10, we have built-in comprehensive and straightforward privacy controls that allow you to have control over your personal information. It is important to note that any information shared with Microsoft is at your discretion – we will not gather information without your permission.”
According to the statement, information customers choose to provide Cortana is stored locally on the device and uploaded to Microsoft’s servers. The company reiterated that it has “a variety of security technologies and procedures” in place to protect that data, including the encryption of any data sent from Cortana to Microsoft.
Ironically, Microsoft targeted Google over similar privacy concerns in 2013.
It’s “Don’t get scroogled by Gmail,” campaign accused Gmail of going through every email sent through the service looking for keywords in order to target users with paid advertisements. The campaign urged users to switch to Outlook.com and sign a petition that asks Google to “stop going through emails to sell ads.”
In 2011, Microsoft released a YouTube video skit titled “Gmail man,” depicting a mailman who reads each piece of mail and memorizes keywords within the messages before delivering the mail.
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