Microsoft has announced it will join the safe-harbor scheme designed to ensure the protection of EU citizens’ personal information.

Microsoft intends to notify the US Department of Commerce of its decision in the next few weeks, joining forty other compatriot companies which have signed the agreement since it was launched in October.

Two years in the making [WAMN: 28-Jul-01], the safe-harbor accord covers all data on EU citizens collected by US companies on or offline. It will protect companies adopting the pact from being sued by Europeans for breach of the EU’s strict Data Protection Directive, which limits the use of personal data and forces companies using such information to show it to the individuals involved and seek their consent.

Microsoft has also vowed to go beyond the safe-harbor principles, allowing people to change their personal details without charge (the EU law permits a small fee for the service). In addition, it plans to extend the policy beyond the EU. “We don't want to treat data of EU citizens differently from that of Canadian or American or any other citizen,” commented Richard Purcell, Microsoft’s director of corporate privacy.

News source: Wall Street Journal