Microsoft’s Commitment to Protecting Consumer Privacy Online

Posted by Michael Hintze
Associate General Counsel, Microsoft Corporation

At Microsoft, we are committed to protecting consumers’ privacy online. There has been renewed public attention on online data collection practices and the use of that data to personalize the advertising and other content displayed online. Microsoft has been engaged and working on these important privacy issues for many years.

For instance, we participated in a recent series of privacy roundtables conducted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that addressed these very topics, and have worked with the Commission as it developed privacy guidelines covering this type of data collection and usage.  We have testified in a Congressional hearing on the topic of online behavioral advertising.  And we’ve worked with industry groups in developing new privacy protections designed to increase transparency and user control with regard to online targeted advertising.

More recently, members of the U.S. Congress expressed interest in how technology companies protect consumers’ privacy on a host of Web sites, including several Microsoft websites: MSN.com, MSNBC.com and Live.com. Their interest centered on the collection of data about online behavior, and the use of that data to personalize advertising and other content displayed online. We welcome the interest and participation of Congress in helping address an industry-wide issue that affects consumers daily. In the information we submitted in response to the members’ questions, we reinforced how privacy is a top priority at Microsoft and that we have implemented a number of important privacy protections in connection with our online data collection and use.  For instance:

  • Microsoft’s Privacy Principles for Live Search and Online Ad Targeting describes how we protect users’ privacy with regard to the information we collect, how the information is used and how users can control the use of their information.
  • We provide a concise summary of our privacy notice which includes helpful links to more detailed information in our Online Privacy Statement.
  • In our search and advertising services, we use a technical method to separate information about search terms and browsing behavior from users’ personal information such as name, e-mail address, and phone number. This method also ensures that we use only data that does not personally identify individual consumers to serve advertising online.  
  • Our Online Privacy Statement allows users to easily access a tool that allows them to opt out of being served advertising based on information we have previously collected. Users can decide to apply this opt-out choice to any computer that a user logs on to using his or her Windows Live ID.  Also, we give people the ability to influence the personalized advertising they receive from Microsoft by selecting and de-selecting interests.

Microsoft recognizes that the protection of consumer privacy is an essential part of offering personalized content and advertising online.  We have developed and implemented a number of privacy protections for consumers, and will continue to advance consumer privacy as these technologies evolve.  We look forward to continuing to work with Congress, the FTC, privacy advocates and industry groups to ensure consumers’ privacy interests are protected as they continue to enjoy the proliferation of free services and information that online advertising supports.

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