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Can Microsoft Lead on Data Privacy?

Although microsoft's corporate identity is not exactly synonymous with consumer-friendly privacy practices--recall the lack of user notification about Windows Genuine Advantage's "phone home" functionality--the company recently released groundbreaking guidelines aimed at helping software and service developers address privacy concerns. Microsoft is clearly trying to position itself as a privacy leader. Case in point: Last year, the company proposed federal data privacy legislation, helping to bring the issue into mainstream political discourse.

The new guidelines are based on FIPS (Fair Information Practices), a standard privacy analysis framework that girds several privacy laws through notions including notice, consent, collection limitation, data security and individual participation. Applying these abstract concepts to modern software development practices is difficult; corporate software development teams can benefit from Microsoft's effort.

Microsoft provides some excellent recommendations, such as using predefined entries where possible (for example, drop-down boxes) and reducing the sensitivity of data (retaining only the portions of telephone numbers necessary for marketing analysis).

Find the guidelines.--Patrick Mueller, [email protected]