Internet Security Essay, Research Paper
As you peruse a newspaper or magazine at home or browse the aisles of a store in search of a book or CD, you can do so without anyone knowing your business. Today, however, as the Web plays a bigger role in our lives, it is increasingly difficult to pass through life completely unnoticed.
The collection of personal information has been an issue since long before the Internet was created. But over the last few years, Web sites have developed the ability to collect, analyze and share data about visitors. As the use of this technology has become more widespread, the debate over Internet privacy has grown increasingly impassioned.
On the one hand, the growth of the Internet depends on businesses understanding more about people s Web browsing activities and how Web sites can provide the information and products users want. At the same time, consumers want to know that they are in control of their personal information online.
At the same time, consumers, the government and responsible industry leaders are asking whether people are being provided with the knowledge and tools needed to ensure that they are well informed and have a choice about how their personal information is being gathered and used.
Two months ago, Microsoft launched a cookie-management feature for its Internet Explorer browser that provides consumers with an easy way to manage and delete cookies, as well as to understand different types of cookies and where they originate. This new technology (available at no charge at microsoft.com/windows/ie) underscores Microsoft s belief that everyone has a right to know how information about them and their Internet activity is being collected and used; not only by the Web sites they visit, but also by advertisers and other businesses that are interested in such information.
However, cookie management alone is not the answer to consumer privacy. We are undertaking a number of other efforts, including placing Microsoft advertising in the United States only on Web sites that conform to Fair Information Practices that govern the collection, storage, use and distribution of customer information. We also developed a software tool that has been used by more than 20,000 Web sites to create privacy statements that comply with these Fair Information Practices.
Yet, there is still more that can and should be done. In conjunction with the World Wide Web Consortium, Microsoft and other industry leaders are developing software tools that enable computer users to automatically compare the privacy policies of Web sites they visit with their own privacy preferences. This will enhance a consumer s ability to make an informed decision when sharing personal information. There are still many challenging policy and technical issues to be resolved before this technology is widely deployed, but when it is, this will be another major step forward in ensuring that consumers have the knowledge required to protect their privacy.
Protecting computer users privacy is not only good for consumers; it is also good for the long-term viability of e-commerce. Microsoft is committed to working with other industry participants, privacy advocates and policymakers to ensure that as the Internet becomes more and more a part of daily life, consumers have the ability to manage and control their personal information online.
Americans are in love with the Internet.
Three-quarters of Americans under the age of 60 have used the Internet at work or at home, and 72 percent say the Internet has made their lives better. Meanwhile, Americans spent an estimated $15 billion to $20 billion last year shopping online.
At the same time, Americans are becoming increasingly concerned that their privacy is at risk on the Internet. According to a Forrester Research survey of online users, 67 percent said they were “extremely” or “very” concerned about releasing personal information over the Web. Forrester estimates that those fears may have resulted in as much as $2.8 billion in lost sales for Internet retailers in 1999.
Over the last year, the ability of Web sites to collect, combine, analyze and disseminate data has hit the radar screens of the public, government officials, the technology industry and the media in a huge way. Recently, considerable attention has been focused on the privacy practices and policies of many well-known companies, including Microsoft.
As a New York Times editorial last month noted: “Unless businesses can protect privacy, the erosion of trust could seriously harm e-commerce as well as cause the public to become wary about using the Internet for education, research and other important noncommercial functions.”
If that were to occur, it would be a shame, not only for consumers, but also for the high-technology industry.
As Microsoft continues to monitor and improve our own Web practices and policies, we are also committed to developing technologies and tools that will help lead the way in placing power and choice in the hands of consumers regarding the collection and use of their personal information. We are working with government leaders, industry, and nonprofit organizations like getnetwise.org, TRUSTe and BBBOnline, to find the best solutions for addressing the public s legitimate concerns. A key component is educating online users and helping them take advantage of current privacy tools and new ones as they are developed.
Microsoft believes that everyone has a right to know how their personal information and their Internet activity is used by the Web sites they visit. This commitment is built within a framework known as Fair Information Practices, which forms the foundation of our collection, storage, use and distribution of customer information. The Fair Information Practices, which are endorsed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), privacy advocacy groups and a growing number of technology companies, incorporate five key principles: notice, choice, access, security and enforcement.
To encourage other Web site operators to adhere to the Fair Information Practices, Microsoft has established a policy that we will only place corporate advertising on U.S. Web sites that conform to these practices. A growing list of other industry leaders, including IBM, Disney, Novell and Compaq also have established policies designed to encourage Web businesses to disclose their information management practices.
On the technology front, we have worked with TRUSTe to create a Privacy Wizard that has been used by more than 12,000 Web sites to create privacy statements that comply with the Fair Information Practices.
In Washington, D.C., and in state legislatures, numerous proposals have been introduced to study the range of issues involved in the privacy discussion, or to regulate information practices. The Federal Trade Commission has convened a cross-section of industry and privacy advocacy groups, including Microsoft, to review two of the most important issues: access and security. The FTC also continues to survey how the industry is adopting Fair Information Practices.
At Microsoft, we recognize that protecting privacy is not only good for consumers; it is also good for the long-term viability of e-commerce. Given the diversity of views on how to tackle these issues, and the rapid pace of innovation and change on the Internet, a consensus view on a one-size-fits-all solution will be difficult to achieve. Working with our partners, others in the industry and with policymakers, however, we are striving to make sure that both consumers and the high-technology industry come out as winners on these challenging issues.