Posted by Mike Hintze Associate General Counsel, Legal & Corporate Affairs, on the Microsoft on the Issues Blog:

Today, we submitted comments on the Federal Trade Commission’s preliminary staff report on consumer privacy, “Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: A Proposed Framework for Businesses and Policymakers.

These comments to the FTC follow the comments we submitted at the end of last month on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s privacy green paper, “Commercial Data Privacy and Innovation in the Internet Economy: A Dynamic Policy Framework.”

We commend both the FTC and Commerce for their thoughtful work on the important issue of protecting consumer privacy. Given our long-standing commitment to privacy and data security, Microsoft welcomes the opportunity to participate in these dialogues and to work with government, consumer advocates and others in industry to develop a robust privacy framework that will withstand rapid technological advances while fostering innovation.

As both agencies are developing privacy frameworks, our comments urge them to ensure that these frameworks foster:

• Flexibility in order to permit businesses to develop innovative privacy technologies and tools.

• Certainty about whether their privacy policies and practices comply with legal requirements, such as through government-recognized safe harbor programs.

• Simplified data flows in order to facilitate the data flows – including those across borders – necessary to enable more efficient, reliable and secure delivery of services to consumers at lower prices. A balanced approach will enable providers to meet users’ expectations in realizing the benefits of the Internet in ways that also protect privacy interests.

• Technology neutrality to avoid preferences for particular services, solutions or mechanisms to provide notice, obtain choice, or protect consumer data – which could chill innovation by deterring providers from developing alternative or improved approaches to protect consumer data.

As a company that has focused on consumer privacy for many years, we hope our comments provide the Commerce Department and the FTC with helpful feedback. We have included illustrations of privacy protections built into our own products and services that might be more generally considered within the framework. 

By working together, we believe industry, governments and other stakeholders can provide strong consumer privacy and data security protections while also enabling innovation and facilitating the productivity and cost-efficiency offered by new business models and computing paradigms.