Microsoft Made 1998 a Banner Year for Online Privacy, Renews Commitment for 1999

REDMOND, Wash., Jan. 4, 1999 — While 1998 marked the epoch of Internet e-commerce on a mass scale, consumers, industry observers and government regulators alike voiced rising concerns about online privacy. With an eye toward European Union regulations that threaten to halt e-commerce between European and U.S. companies because of philosophical differences over online privacy issues, the Clinton administration urged the industry to police itself.

In March 1998, a Business Week/Harris Poll survey of nearly 1,000 people found that consumers were much more likely to shop with Internet merchants if they felt their online privacy was protected. Against this backdrop, Microsoft mobilized a company-wide campaign to put consumers in control of their personal information online, and began evangelizing among its business partners and the industry at large about the need to protect consumers’ privacy online. For consumers, online privacy includes three elements: the right to choose who gets access to their personal information; the ability to correct that data; and security against unauthorized disclosure by Web sites of sensitive information, i.e., credit card numbers. During 1998, Microsoft addressed those three priorities by establishing and posting online privacy policies for its Web sites, and then allowing TRUSTe – an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to building consumer trust in the Internet – to audit those sites. At the same time, Microsoft incorporated technology in many of its Internet products and services to enable the trusted exchange of private information online.

Externally, Microsoft spearheaded industry initiatives to encourage other Internet-based businesses to post privacy policies and join organizations such as TRUSTe to help promote online privacy issues. Microsoft also participated in programs to educate a broad range of consumers, including children, about effective ways to use the Internet safely and protect their personal data online.

Saul Klein, who is directing many of Microsoft’s privacy initiatives, said the company is strongly committed to protecting people’s online privacy as it develops new Internet products and services. “It’s good business to protect consumers’ online privacy,” Klein said. “Establishing consumer trust is a key to Microsoft’s success in the marketplace, and we understand that maintaining this trust is critical. We’ve made online privacy a priority, both from a technical and policy standpoint, so that people can feel comfortable about enjoying great Microsoft products and services on the Internet that make it easier to get things done.”

Representatives of online privacy organizations such as TRUSTe, and the Online Privacy Alliance (OPA) – a cross-industry coalition committed to protecting individual privacy on the Internet – applauded Microsoft’s work in the area of online privacy during 1998. TRUSTe executive director Susan Scott said Microsoft made significant progress in the area of online privacy. “Microsoft decided last year that privacy was going to be an issue they would address, and they went full-steam ahead with it,” Scott said. “We look forward to Microsoft’s continued diligence in the privacy arena during 1999.” OPA spokeswoman Sydney Rubin echoed those sentiments, saying, “Through its participation in the Online Privacy Alliance and two new privacy seal programs, Microsoft has demonstrated its concrete commitment to increasing the comfort of consumers online.”

Following is a recap of Microsoft’s major online privacy milestones during 1998.

  • Microsoft Acquires Technology to Protect People’s Online Privacy

  • Microsoft Joins Industry Online Privacy Initiatives

  • Microsoft Promotes Protection of Children’s Online Privacy

  • Microsoft’s Ongoing Commitment to Online Privacy

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