Posted by Tim Cranton 
Associate General Counsel

Earlier today the Federal Trade Commission kicked off a two-day “Fraud Forum” in Washington, D.C., that is bringing together regulators, law enforcement officers, consumer advocates, academics and business leaders to swap ideas and advance cooperation to combat illegal online activities that cost citizens and businesses millions of dollars each year.

I participated in a panel this afternoon entitled, “From Gateway to Gatekeeper: The Role of Private Industry Players in Detecting and Preventing Fraud.” The title raises a provocative question about what role companies such as Microsoft can and should play in policing the Internet. How do we balance the need to help law enforcement aggressively pursue criminal activity, with our obligation to protect our customers’ privacy and freedom of speech?

Given Microsoft’s visibility as a leading provider of online services, we know we must collaborate with public and private partners to make the Internet a safer place. We have steadily ramped up our work to protect children, consumers and businesses from harm on the Web, and we need to do more. 

Tim Cranton

In recent months, for instance, we’ve seen huge increases in foreclosure- and economic anxiety-related frauds and phishing schemes. The total amount of malware removed from computers worldwide grew a whopping 43 percent during the first half of 2008, with an increased focus on financial crimes and related scams.

Given the rising level of risks online, Microsoft is proud to collaborate with security developers and law enforcement worldwide on training programs such as LE Tech and technological tools such as theComputer Online Forensic Evidence Extractor (COFEE). Everyone – consumers, businesses, government and society – benefits when Internet threats are aggressively pursued and countered. And that means working together. Dynamic relationships allow us to share best practices, intelligence and technology.

Making the Web safer and more secure has tangible, real-world benefits. In the health care arena, for instance, tools to enhance security enable people to put faith in e-health records and other information technology that can reduce health care costs for workers and employers and expand the availability of medical services in underserved areas. But that’s just the beginning. A more secure Internet can help governments be more effective and transparent for their citizens; reduce costs for consumers and businesses engaged e-commerce; and make distance learning, worker retraining and education more accessible not only to Americans but also to people in developing economies around the world.