Posted by Thomas Myrup Kristensen 
EU Internet Policy Director

What does it take to ensure companies make great products that enhance privacy? What does it take to ensure that consumers understand their privacy rights and feel comfortable in an online world? In short, what does it take to build a real culture of online trust?

At Microsoft we believe privacy shouldn’t be an afterthought, but something that’s built into products from the design phase onwards. We feel strongly about empowering our customers to be in control of their own information, and with this conviction we design all our products and services.

For example, the Microsoft Phishing Filter helps protect consumers from phishing attacks that might compromise their personal information. Windows Defender is a free program that provides protection against spyware and other potentially unwanted software. Windows CardSpace helps consumers manage multiple digital identities and ensure that parties asking for digital identities are who they say they are. And we partner with like-minded organizations whenever we can, like i-SAFE and the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children, to raise awareness about privacy issues. 

However, consumers need to understand how personal information is treated and its relevance, otherwise, a culture of trust cannot be developed. To reach this goal, industry, consumer groups, governments and NGO’s need to work together and exchange their views on how to progress and to raise awareness among consumers. 
  
Therefore Microsoft is proud to be a supporter of this year’s Data Privacy Day/Data Protection Day which took place in the European Parliament in Brussels. Outside Europe, we are also helping by sponsoring a series of global events aimed at increasing awareness of privacy and data protection issues among consumers, organizations and governments. 

Established in 2007 by the Council of Europe, Data Protection Day, called Data Privacy Day in the U.S., is now held annually on January 28 and involves events across the globe aimed at informing consumers about what they can do to keep personal information safe online.

This year in Brussels, European Schoolnet, with the support of the European Parliament, the European Commission, the European Economic and Social Committee and Microsoft (led by my colleague Cornelia), turned to the public- and especially young adults from 15 to 19 years old, to engage in a campaign called “Surf the Net – think privacy”, and understand how teenagers see privacy and what concerns they have. 

Conference Room of Data Privacy Day

The young adults were asked to submit a short video with their thoughts, and I’m very impressed with the energy, creativity, thoughtfulness and enthusiasm that the video entries submitted displayed. Take a look on the event Web site and watch the winning entries here. Entries were judged by a jury of panelists from Data Protection Authorities, MEP Sophie in’t Veld, representatives of the Council of Europe and John Vassallo, Microsoft’s Vice-President of EU Affairs.

The three winning entries from Bulgaria, Portugal and Romania, as well as the winners of a separate project carried out in partnership by two different schools in Greece and Lithuania, were recognized by EU Commission Vice-President Barrot and other prominent guests at an awards ceremony at the Data Protection Day event at the European Parliament in Brussels.

This year’s Data Protection Day marks an important milestone in awareness raising and public-private partnerships, but data protection is a continuous journey, not a single destination. Microsoft will continue to invest in great privacy friendly products and services and will continue to work with privacy leaders to develop a culture of online trust. Today’s events showed that it certainly is also possible to have some fun along the way!

To learn more about our broader efforts, visit our Data Privacy Day Web site.