Posted by Frank Torres 
Director, Consumer Affairs

On December 7, the Federal Trade Commission will host the first in a series of day-long roundtable discussions “to explore the privacy challenges posed by the vast array of 21st century technology and business practices that collect and use consumer data.” The goal of the sessions, according to the Commission, “is to determine how best to protect consumer privacy while supporting beneficial uses of the information and technological innovation.”

As part of the ramp-up to the roundtables, the Commission invited public comments about how best to address consumer privacy in emerging technologies. Our comments focus on Health IT, online advertising, and cloud computing. These three evolving fields have a lot in common: each promises significant potential benefits for both consumers and innovators, but widespread adoption depends on ensuring users’ privacy at every step.

Microsoft has a long-standing commitment to privacy, based on our belief that for consumers to take full advantage of new technologies and contribute to the online ecosystem, consumers must trust that their data will be subject to consistent, predictable and robust privacy protections. Among the protections we focus on in our comments are transparency, consumer control and security. For example, consumers should have a choice about whether information on their online activities is used to create behavioral profiles for targeted advertising. In the context of cloud computing, consumers and enterprises should be given flexibility and choice about whether their data, software, and applications are kept locally or delivered as a service over the Internet. And in healthcare, patients should have control over where their health data is, who is looking at it, and for what purpose.

We support the goal of the FTC roundtables and we appreciate the Commission’s thoughtful approach. It’s the right time for a fresh look at privacy and security, and we look forward to the dialogue on December 7.