Thursday, January 21, 2010

Microsoft, Champion of Privacy?

Microsoft has a pattern in the way it does things. When it wants something done a certain way, it does it, and damn anyone who tries to go another direction. Now Microsoft has decided that it's time to let go of information instead of hording it. In a column at Information Week, Microsoft Boosts Bing Search Privacy, Thomas Claburn tells us that Microsoft is going to remove the IP data from searches after six months rather than the eighteen that Google does. But Microsoft falls short of Yahoos commitment to delete most search info after 3.

And there lies the rub. Microsoft is used to being the big dog on the block when it decides on a move. According the Bing is third in the search engine race. Google is first with over 70% of the search engine traffic. Yahoo is a very distant 2nd with a little under 15%, and Bing is relatively close behind Yahoo at a little under 10%. In other endeavors Microsoft can bring it's massive OS dominance to bear. In search that dominance is less helpful. If they can't give the results that Google or even Yahoo can, they won't dominate.

Search isn't the only area Microsoft is coming forth as a privacy champion. Cloud computing, which is an area Microsoft might be able to influence, is another area the Redmond giant is preparing to address. In her article, Microsoft Urges Cloud-Computing Privacy Bill, Chloe Albanesius reports that Microsoft's lead council, Brad Smith, lobbied (she said urged - sounds nicer) Congress for a modern privacy bill and unveiled a report that shows the vast majority of people are worried about their data in the cloud. In a keynote at the Brookings Institute in Washington D.C. he said:
"As we move to embrace the cloud, we should build on that success and preserve the personalization of technology by making sure privacy rights are preserved, data security is strengthened and an international understanding is developed about the governance of data when it crosses national borders."

He went on to say that the government needs to modify and pass laws to protect data and privacy as we move to cloud computing.

This all sounds very good. Microsoft may have realized that protecting data in the cloud is in it's own best interest. Crooks might go after my data, but they're more likely to go after Microsofts if we are both equally insecure. Only time will tell if Microsoft legitimately wants better privacy controls, or if they're preparing to exploit loopholes.