Microsoft will soon be issuing updates for its Windows Phone 8.  One of the interesting updates will be Cortana which will be a personal digital assistant that will replace the built-in Bing search feature.  Tom Warren wrote about Cortana recently and described the Cortana Notebook which, he said, Microsoft is highlighting as providing users with privacy protections for their information (www.the verge; “Apple has Siri, and Microsoft is about to get Cortana”; February 20).

Mr. Warren writes about the Cortana Notebook feature that is intended to  provide users with control over the specific information that gets shared with the personal digital assistant.  Via the Notebook feature, the Cortana digital assistant will be able to access user information including location data, reminders, personal information and contact information.  However, he was informed that Cortana won’t be able to “freely access information without a level of user control.”

The information that Cortana learns about its user won’t be stored in Notebook without asking for the user’s permission — and information that does get stored can be edited or deleted.  Cortana will perform voice or text search requests using the stored information; it will also make suggestions based on the search requests and information.

In his article, Mr. Warren lists the other personal assistant functions that Cortana will be able to perform (e.g., asking if the user wants calendar reminders; managing notifications and phone calls during hours when the user wants these notifications muted).

All of the personal digital assistant features could certainly be useful. However, providing users with more control over their personal information through Cortana Notebook could well be one of the key updates for Windows Phone 8.1.