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Microsoft Advertising Network policies

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June 30, 2023


Software download products & services, freeware & shareware

Advertisers, publishers, and partners must ensure a positive download experience for users. This includes, at a minimum: clearly identifying the software that is being installed and its source; explaining the effects on the user’s browser settings or operating system and its settings, etc.; and allowing easy uninstall and disablement. Use the policies on this page for help.

User choice and control

Users must be provided with adequate choice and control before, during and after installation. Microsoft Advertising does not allow software which does not provide adequate choice and/or control.

Choice ensures that users are fully informed about how software may affect their experience on their devices, and that none of the functions of a program or settings on the device are altered without the user’s clear and informed consent.

Control ensures that users are in full control of the overall experience on their device, including all software applications they download. Users must be in control at all times, including if and when they elect to revert back to previous settings or uninstall or disable any previously installed software.

User notice must be clear, informed, unequivocal, and not coerced or otherwise obtained through misleading claims, false representations, or other fraudulent means. In determining whether disclosures to users are acceptable, we will consider the totality of the experience on both the offer and the landing page and/or offer screen from the point of view of an average consumer. Material terms cannot appear only within the End User License Agreement (“EULA”) but must be prominently displayed up front (that is, what an average user can read and understand) and must not be misleading or hidden (for example only under the “Custom Install” option).

  • Disclosures enable users to exercise choice. All relevant and material information must be clearly and prominently disclosed up front to end users on the landing page, offer screen or store listing (as relevant) before install. This includes, but is not limited to:
    • Origin and scope of the download, including if the download originates from a different domain.
    • All software that is included in the download. This includes each product name, source, key features and functionalities, and a link to the privacy policy and EULA (which shall include contact information).
    • Actions and effects that the software will have on the user’s device and settings, including changes to the search providers, autocomplete, homepages, local file systems and other configurations and user's settings.
    • Alteration of existing software on the user's device.
    • Any variations from the official software.
    • Software uninstalls information that includes instructions on reverting back settings that the software changes.
  • Offer screens must clearly disclose and identify to users all software included in the offer (including appropriate branding/logo usage).
    • The name of the software on the offer screen must match the name of the software as stored on the user device and uninstall dialogs. In other words, users must be able to clearly locate the software on their devices based on the original name presented in the offer screen at installation.
    • Add/remove details must be accurate (for example, install date must match the date of the program installation).
    • Offer screens must be presented to the user as either opt-in or opt-out.
    • Users must be able to decline all secondary offers, individually or in bulk (“Skip All”).
      • Accept and Decline options must be of equal prominence.
      • Repeat declines are disallowed. As users decline any or all secondary offers, the offer screen must not prompt users to decline the same offer(s) more than once.
    • Offer screens must clearly disclose to the users any changes to the settings, existing software and applications. For example, modifications to the search provider, homepage and/or new tab must be clearly disclosed to the user.

Update functionality

  • Updates must not be triggered without user consent, with the exception of enterprise products background updates (disclosed at install). Users may agree to automatic updates during installation via prominent consent language (e.g., a check box on the offer screen).
  • Update dialogs must clearly disclose what is being updated.
  • Software updates must not materially alter the original function of the software disclosed at install without the user consent and control.
  • A software update must not alter third party software without user consent.
    • For clarity, this does not include antimalware software signature updates that enable the detection of third-party software for user protection purposes; an updated antimalware product is allowed to detect third party software as result of its updates.

Uninstall functionality

Any software download must include an uninstall function in the Programs and Features or Add/Remove Programs control panel, or the browsers or operating system’s default removal method.
  • The uninstall process must not be difficult, confusing, or made conditional to payments, subscriptions, other downloads, etc.
  • Upon uninstall, a program may only display one single confirmation prompt. The confirmation prompt cannot be misleading or otherwise attempting to persuade the user not to proceed with the uninstall.
  • During uninstall, software may not install, uninstall or reinstall other unrelated software on the device without user consent.
  • The uninstall process must be complete and permanent for each software download. No traces of the specific uninstalled software can remain on the user’s device.

Bundling functionality

  • All software that is included in the download bundle must be clearly disclosed to the user.
  • The software or bundles must not be altered from what was disclosed to the end user or after review by Microsoft (for example, by injecting code into the bundle).
  • End users must be allowed to easily decline each individual software within the bundle, either individually or through a “skip all.”
  • Installer and bundles must not crash or freeze programs or the device.
  • Chained bundlers (bundle within a bundle) are not allowed.
  • Legitimate software cannot be bundled with other software that is not allowed by this policy. For example, an otherwise “complaint” software cannot be bundled with spyware.

Additional requirements for advertisements

  • Software should be available on the website as advertised in ad copy.
    • The software promoted in ad copy must be present on the landing page.
    • If the ad copy promotes “latest version, free” of a download, users must be able to download the latest version of the software from the website at no cost, and without the need to download any additional software (either for payment or free).
    • It must be noted in ad copy if access to content or services requires a software download (e.g., toolbars).