Online Privacy Principles
Industry needs to provide consumers with simple, clear guidelines on its use of online customer data.
Published: September 12, 2007
Today’s competition among the leading Internet search providers is bringing big benefits for consumers, as providers work to make their services faster, more comprehensive and more useful. But as consumers find their way through cyberspace, most probably give little thought to the footprints they leave behind.
Internet search raises important issues of consumer privacy. To serve up appropriate online advertising, which supports search as a free service, providers collect data about search queries so that, for instance, prospective car buyers see car ads. Over time, a record of search queries could reveal a lot about a person’s interests. If this data were linked to individuals and fell into the wrong hands, the consequences could be troubling.
To ensure that individual privacy is protected, Microsoft recently adopted a set of forward-thinking privacy principles for Windows Live Search and our online advertising services. These principles build on the careful consideration we have devoted to online privacy over the past several years.
Through Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing initiative, for example, privacy standards have been thoroughly incorporated into the development of our products and services. Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office system include many innovative tools and features to help ensure that users have more effective control over personal information stored in or transmitted over personal computers. As a company, we have consistently adhered to globally recognized privacy standards, while advocating for comprehensive federal privacy legislation in the United States and for more consistent public policies worldwide.
Microsoft’s new privacy principles reinforce our company-wide commitment to being transparent about, and giving customers more control over, the information used to personalize their online search experience. The principles outline our worldwide policies on the retention of search data, including our commitment to make all Live Search query data anonymous after 18 months — by permanently removing all cross-session identifiers, including the entirety of a device’s Internet Protocol address.
Our privacy principles spell out how we will work to make sure that customers’ information remains safe with us. For example, Microsoft stores search terms separately from account information — such as names and e-mail addresses — that personally and directly identifies an individual.
The privacy principles also detail our commitment to meeting or exceeding all legal requirements and industry best practices wherever we do business. Accordingly, Microsoft will join the Network Advertising Initiative, a cooperative of online marketing and advertising companies that is addressing important privacy and consumer protection issues in emerging media.
Our goal is simple but ambitious: By providing leadership on issues of privacy in the fast-changing worlds of online search and advertising, we aim to raise awareness and encourage others in our industry to adopt similar policies. That way, intense competition can continue to work in the interest of consumers.