Microsoft releases guidelines for customer privacy

Microsoft is releasing its internal practices to protect customer privacy in products in the hopes others will emulate their methods

Criticized in the past for an initiative that would require the company to collect and catalog personal information about its customers, Microsoft on Wednesday released an internal document about how it protects customers' privacy in the hopes other companies will adopt similar practices.

The company publicly published a 49-page document, called Microsoft's Privacy Guidelines for Developing Software Products and Services, at the International Association of Privacy Professionals Privacy Academy 2006 in Toronto. The document can be found on the company's Web site.

The document outlines recommendations for software developers that will help them protect customer privacy when building applications that deal with sensitive information, such as Web sites or Web-based features that send personal information over the Internet, said Peter Cullen, Microsoft's chief privacy strategist. He will speak on a panel at the show on Friday, sharing and discussing the document with attendees there.

For example, Cullen said Microsoft implemented a way to erase personal information in the new phishing filter it has built for its Internet Explorer browser. The filter, designed to protect users when they surf to online sites that could use phishing to steal personal information, compares sites that users visit to known phishing sites. However, before going to any site to do this verification, the filter erases any personal information that would identify which user visited, he said.

Microsoft has not always been seen as sensitive to customer privacy. Five years ago, the company tried to implement a project code-named Hailstorm, which theoretically would store personal and credit-card information and passwords so users could easily sign on to various sites. Customers balked at the idea of Microsoft controlling their personal information, and the project never lived up to its hype.

Cullen said Microsoft has learned a lot from such experiences and wants other companies to implement the practices it has developed to protect customer privacy.

"Certainly that and other things have contributed to us thinking deeply with how we provide security and privacy, as well as respect and control with how their information is used," he said. "We think others should join in this discussion."

Microsoft also got into some hot water earlier this year when it was disclosed that a new antipiracy feature in its Windows client OS, Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA), was sending information from PCs to an internal Microsoft server without users' knowledge through an automatic notification feature. The feature was checking to see if the user's copy of Microsoft was legitimate, if that copy had not yet been verified as authentic. After some accused the software of acting like spyware, Microsoft removed the offending feature.

Cullen said the uproar over WGA's notification features and Microsoft's subsequent removal of it gives the company "the benefit of hindsight."

"We didn't spend enough time to make sure [the feature] met our standards," he said.

Microsoft continues to do everything it can to avoid violating customer privacy in its products and will continue to review each product carefully to make sure it meets the internal standards made public on Tuesday, he added.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Elizabeth Montalbano

IDG News Service
Show Comments



Sansai 6-Outlet Power Board + 4-Port USB Charging Station

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?