Ballmer sees a customer demand for privacy

July 28th, 2008 by Alex Selkirk

I have meant to comment on this Ballmer clip from the Washington Post (embedded below) for a few weeks, so this is hardly news, but I can’t pass it up.

There is some undeniably good news for those concerned about privacy. After years of laying low under the glare of Google’s “Don’t be Evil” mantra, Steve Ballmer has said “I actually think we [Microsoft] are going to have to compete on Privacy Policy.”

Watch the clip:

Ballmer is suggesting that the market might make “privacy” a competitive differentiator between services. For example, as a user you might compare two personal financial services with similar functionality, and choose the one that offers “better” privacy guarantees.

To date I think it is fair to say that privacy has not been a mainstream concern for people choosing what software or service to use.

How Microsoft chooses to execute on this lofty goal remains to be seen. At CDTF, our hope is that Microsoft won’t frame privacy in the usual fear-mongering terms of protecting individuals from being “spied on” or “exposed” but will instead address privacy head-on by finally providing individuals with the control and access they need to become active partners in safeguarding their own privacy(…without losing the opportunity to take advantage of the data available to us all: as individuals, businesses, society and yes, even marketers.)

[Full disclosure: Microsoft is currently a client of my consulting business. I also worked at Microsoft from 2003-2006.]

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