EC Shines Privacy Flashlight on Microsoft

28 May 2002

Microsoft’s surreptitious collection of personal data from web surfers has attracted the attention of the European Commission after concerns that the practice breaks local privacy laws.

In an apparent display of altruism, the software leviathan offers internet users free.NET, a gratis ‘passport’ that purports to guarantee their bona fides when surfing or shopping, promoting this as “one easy way to sign-in and shop online”.

What Microsoft seemingly overlooked telling consumers who sign-up to free.NET is that it also harvests their personal information either from their email address or from websites they visit to make a purchase, play games or conduct a bank transaction.

This attracted the attention of Dutch MEP [Member of the European Parliament] Erik Meijer who notified the European Commission - which is already conducting a probe into Microsoft on anti-competition issues.

Frits Bolkestein, European Commissioner for the Internal Market has now responded to Meijer’s concerns: “The Commission is ... looking into this as a matter of priority, in concert with national data-protection authorities, as regards the system's compatibility [or not] with EU data-protection law.”

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff