[openstandaarden] [Fwd: NYTimes.com Article: Microsoft to Alter Online System to Satisfy Europe]

Guy Van Den Bergh superfranske at skynet.be
Fri Jan 31 16:00:28 CET 2003

ter info:
Een artikel over .net/passport en regulering door Frits&co.

-----Doorgestuurd Bericht-----

This article from NYTimes.com 

Microsoft to Alter Online System to Satisfy Europe

January 31, 2003

BRUSSELS, Jan. 30 -- To avert a clash with European
regulators over data privacy, Microsoft has agreed to make
"radical" changes in the workings of .Net Passport, its
online authentication system, regulators said today. 

According to a statement released by a committee of data
protection registrars from each of the 15 European Union
member states, Microsoft agreed to "a radical change of the
information flow" and other changes to better protect
consumers' addresses, ages, phone and credit card numbers
and other personal details. 

"Users' data will now be better protected," said Frits
Bolkestein, the union's commissioner for internal market
issues, who was an observer at the committee's meetings
this week. 

The changes that Microsoft agreed to make are intended to
let consumers know which information about them is
available to commercial Web sites and to make it simpler to
restrict that data. 

"The changes give users greater control over how their
information is used," said Iain Bourne, strategic policy
manager for the Data Protection Authority of Britain, a
participant on the committee. "There wasn't adequate
transparency until now, so Microsoft had a problem with
some E.U. data protection laws." 

The purpose of the .Net Passport system is to make online
shopping more convenient for users by sparing them the need
to repeatedly enter names, addresses and other information
on Web sites, while at the same time confirming a user's
identity to a merchant. Personal data is stored in a large
central database and sent to participating Web sites with a
click from the user. 

Under the agreement, Europeans who sign up to use .Net
Passport will be prompted to look at a brief summary of
their privacy rights under the law. They will also be shown
a link to the European Commission's Web site, where more
information about data protection will be available. 

All users, not just Europeans, will be provided with the
opportunity to select which facts about them - e-mail
addresses, age, sex, credit card numbers and so on - will
be shared with participating Web sites. 

Mr. Bolkestein urged others who are involved in online
commerce to follow the committee's guidelines for .Net
Passport as they develop new online authentication systems.

The committee is also reviewing a rival system, being
created by a consortium called the Liberty Alliance, that
is not yet in operation; no changes have been requested in
that system. 

Peter Fleischer, who is Microsoft's chief lawyer in Europe
on privacy issues, said the company welcomed the agreement.
"The changes that we will make are the result of an open
and constructive dialogue," he said. "Today's announcement
is an important step forward in the necessary collaboration
between government and industry in order to achieve a
common goal - improving privacy for the benefit of

If .Net Passport becomes popular, Microsoft will play a
prominent middleman role in e-commerce transactions.
Critics of the system, including members of the Liberty
Alliance, say they worry about the concentration of so much
information in the hands of one powerful company. 

"It's a huge issue, having an alternative to .Net," said
Christine Varney, a lawyer at Hogan & Hartson in Washington
who represents the alliance. 

Ms. Varney said the alliance, led by Sun Microsystems, was
developing an open-source system that anyone could use,
rather than a branded proprietary system like .Net
Passport. The open-source system would allow groups of
companies in related fields to set up a single shared entry
point for customers, but it would not gather personal
information in a central database. 

So far, about 150 companies have expressed an interest in
using the Liberty Alliance system. 

"It would be worrying if there were no alternative to
.Net," one Internet executive said. "If you had a choice,
would you choose to store all your personal details and
Internet visits in one place?" 

Mr. Bourne, the British data security expert, said that
while he could not say that one system was superior to the
other, a system that did not create a large centralized
database had advantages in terms of its ability to protect


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