The Privacy Design Imperative

Microsoft’s announcement this week of new privacy-enhancing technologies in our upcoming Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) browser is our latest move towards giving users simple, clear options for controlling how their information is used on the internet.

Our latest announcement is that the near-final “release candidate” of IE9 gives consumers greater choice over the amount of data that they share on-line, through a new “Tracking Protection” mechanism. This will help consumers to limit internet tracking in various ways, based on their trust in the websites which they engage with. The system includes an open platform so that users, developers and other third parties can develop Tracking Protection Lists, including lists that allow “calls,” and provides a good balance between empowering consumers and maintaining essential internet and design functionality. Follow the IE9 design and privacy features links to see more details.

Consumer privacy has long been an important part of Microsoft’s ethos. Bill Gates formalized Microsoft’s commitment to security and privacy in 2002 as part of our Trustworthy Computing initiative. We have invested heavily in building what we believe are some of the strongest security and privacy programs in our industry. These have included improved controls over viruses and other malicious computing, user selectable privacy levels in Windows Live Messenger, online privacy and safety controls in Xbox, and 20 new privacy design criteria in our Cloud computing offerings including Office 365. Jean-Philippe Courtois, President of Microsoft International, has outlined these efforts in his recent speech, “Privacy by Design”.

Governments understandably are concerned about their citizens’ privacy. We are therefore supportive of such efforts as the European Commission’s review of its data protection rules, announced last month, which is an important step in the process of updating and streamlining EU regulations related to online privacy that have been in effect since 1995. While some argue that privacy is less important in the online world, we at Microsoft have been focused for a long time on building better privacy tools into our products and services – quite literally, “privacy by design”. As our IE9 announcement demonstrates, we remain committed to increase the transparency of privacy-related information to consumers, and the choice and control mechanisms that are available to them.