Memorandum submitted by Microsoft
Microsoft welcomes the opportunity to submit
evidence to this inquiry. Like the Byron Review, Microsoft believes
that this inquiry is timely. We hope that MPs, Government, consumers,
parents, ngos and the industry can come together to see how we
can continue to work to ensure that users, especially our children,
are as safe as possible online and that minors are only viewing
appropriate content online or when playing computer and video
Our comments to this inquiry are largely drawn
from our Byron Review submission.
From an industry perspective, it's important
to highlight that we are not starting from scratch when it comes
to thinking about how we create a safe environment for consumers
and children in particular. Microsoft has been committed to this
goal for many years now and our commitment can been seen in both
our products and our actions as a company.
User security and safety is a top priority for
Microsoft. Five years ago we launched our Trustworthy Computing
Initiative (TWC). This Initiative is aimed at delivering secure,
reliable software for consumers. One key aspect of this has been
the creation of the Security Development Lifecycle (SDL), a unique
approach to software development that reflects the knowledge and
best practices learned from focused security efforts. Our aim
is to make personal computing as secure and reliable as common
utilities, such as the telephone.
We have worked globally to establish a three-part
model to work to tackle many of the issues faced around online
Educating consumers about what they
need to do to make themselves safe onlineGetSafeOnline
is a great example.
Developing new technology and practices
to make consumers safer.
Working with law enforcement to tackle
All three of these areas are essential if we
are going to move forward. Internet security and online safety
require an end-to-end approach.
Against a constantly challenging and evolving
threat landscape, the industry and Microsoft has continued to
make good progress. At Microsoft, TWC has had a major impact on
reducing software vulnerabilities. This has been particularly
true since the launch of Windows XP SP2 but a significant step
forward was the launch of Windows Vista which was the first client
based operating system to go through the SDL.
Our commitment to developing technology to help
create a secure environment for children online and an appropriate
gaming environment can be evidenced in our products: Windows Vista,
Windows Live, Xbox 360 and Xbox LIVE all have parental controls
technology. However, we also aim to show our commitment in our
actions as a company, where we were a founding member of the Home
Office Task Force on Child Safety and the Internet. Our employees
remain committed to this Task Force and have been active contributors
to several of the sub-groups, including those that have developed
good practice guidance on chat/instant messaging, moderation and
most recently social networking services. As a company we have
built strong relationships with CEOP (a member of the Virtual
Global Taskforce), Childnet International and the NSPCC, were
a key funding partner on the Get Safe Online campaign, occupy
a seat on the IWF Funding Council, DCSF Cyberbullying Task Force,
ISFE and the many other industry groups interested in online and
gaming. We take our self regulatory obligations in these industries
Partnership between industry, government and
law enforcement is all critical to help make the internet a safe
place for children. A great example of this partnership working
in action was the launch of the Child Exploitation Tracking System
(CETS) at CEOP. CETS is a unique software tool developed by Canadian
police, international law enforcement officials and Microsoft
to help battle online child exploitation by enhancing law enforcement's
ability to track child predators online.
Microsoft shares these ambitions. Microsoft
is committed to helping provide an environment where everyone
can safely enjoy the benefits of digital and interactive entertainment.
We believe that parents are best placed to determine what is appropriate
for their children. But crucially, that parents must be given
both the information and the tools to enable them to make informed
choices about age appropriate activity and to enforce those choices.
Microsoft's approach to gaming follows these
Responsible Industry Leader
We believe it is our responsibility to deliver
industry-leading family settings (ie, parental controls) for Microsoft's
interactive entertainment-related products and services. Microsoft
is committed to providing a safer, more secure and appropriate
gaming experience for every audience. For video games and online
games, Microsoft provides easy-to-use controls so that parents
and caregivers can set the appropriate environment and decide
which games their children can play based on game ratings.
Educated and Informed Choice
We believe in the rights of parents and caregivers
to make educated choices within a wide variety of offerings. They
are the ultimate judges of the quality, creativity and appropriateness
of the game offerings.
Not all games are for all audiences and Microsoft
actively supports and abides by all game rating systems in effect
in the different parts of the world. The goal of the rating systems
is to be meaningful and descriptive and to allow consumers to
make informed decisions. Education is done through a variety of
methods including, but not limited to, advertising, packaging,
and point-of-purchase kiosks in retail stores.
Creativity and Freedom of Expression
We believe in the freedom of game developers
and publishers to create their games with a wide range of content
and in the freedom of consumers to choose what they purchase.
Interactive entertainment provides something for everyone and
our goal is to support a vibrant ecosystem for the development
of these products.
Commitment to Employee Choice
As a responsible employer, we believe that all
our employees working on game development and marketing have the
choice to exercise their personal preferences with regard to game
content. Microsoft encourages any employee who is not comfortable
working on a certain game due to the nature of its content to
opt out of that specific work.
Using these principles, we have made parental
controls and other security, reliability and privacy issues a
top priority in our entertainment hardware, online services and
Unlike in the physical world, in the virtual
world whether online or with computer games, technology offers
parents the opportunity to understand and where necessary restrict
the content, contact and amount of time their children spend online
or playing computer games. What is crucial is that the industry
and government work together to ensure that parental control technologies
are used by parents. The online world offers a great opportunity
for children to learn and interact with their friends, classmates
and teachers, but parents tend to allow their children more freedom
than they would in the offline world. An example of this difference
in approach is how a parent will allow their child to play a computer
game which is rated above that child's age but will not allow
their children to watch a film with the same rating. We do not
think that you can regulate for this but we do think that there
is a need to educate parents about the potential risks presented
by emerging digital technologies and the available safeguards.
In the past, the Government has invested in public information
campaigns warning children and parents about "stranger danger"
and we do wonder whether a similar broad reaching public information
campaign could help highlight the need for parents to take the
time to think more about what their children are doing online.
This is not about blame as people lead increasingly busy lives
and there are many pressures on parents' time but rather to help
parents make informed choices. It is for the Government to decide
whether a public information campaign is needed and for Ministers
to decide whether this is a priority amongst all the other issues
that call for investment of time and money.
What we suggested is that the Byron Review should
recommend that the Government launch a public information campaign
and offered to discuss how we could get involved if appropriate.
In addition, we also recommended a more targeted campaign in schools,
possibly using the model created by Getting to Know IT All campaign,
where Microsoft employees, working in partnership with the Police,
Childnet International and CEOP, visited over 100 schools to talk
to children about being safe online.
Partnering with the Training and Development
Agency, we have also developed a version of the "Getting
to Know IT All" campaign information to help trainee teachers
learn how to teach internet safety. Again we thought that it would
be worthwhile investigating whether this model could help provide
a vehicle for tackling some of the educational issues raised by
this Inquiry and the Byron Review.
We believe that both the internet and computer
games can be very beneficial to consumers including children.
We feel that this needs to be restated when discussing this issue
as there is much more positive than negative. Online communications
tools are just like any popular communications tool be that mobile
or landlines or even the post. They are used and enjoyed by millions
of consumers every day for positive reasons but are sadly misused
by a tiny minority. We believe that it is important to remember
the benefits derived by the vast majority of consumers when discussing
some of the more negative aspects of the impact of the internet
Although it isn't our area of expertise we would
recommend that the inquiry looks at a number of academic studies
that support the view that video games can be educational and
beneficial to children's learning abilities. We would recommend
that you visit the FutureLab website and look at the Games and
Learning and Teaching with Games reports.
There is also a wealth of articles
on individual aspects of teaching with games on the site:
Microsoft can offer direct commentary on the
benefits of software development to the economy which includes
the internet and computer games industry. To better understand
that contribution, in 2007 IDC conducted a study of the economic
impact of IT in 82 countries, including the UK.
The study found that not only does IT drive
significant growth in skilled jobs, but also that spending on
software creates a disproportionate share of that job growth.
Microsoft's own investment in the UK gaming
industry is reflective of the UK success. We have brought two
leading UK games developers into Microsoft Games Studio, RARE
and Lionhead. In May this year, we announced we were establishing
a European arm of Microsoft Games Studio based at our UK campus
in Reading. The European office is focussing on growing the popularity
of our published content, identifying and sourcing content which
is more culturally appealing to EU countries and on nurturing
relationships with games developers. The division builds on the
strong presence we already have in the UK with Lionhead, Rare
and great publishing partners like Bizarre Creations in Liverpool
and Real Time Worlds in Dundee.
For the United Kingdom, IDC found the following:
IT spending is 3.4% of GDP, compared
to a world average of 2.5%.
Overall IT spending is expected to
hit £45.7 billion in 2007 and grow 5.5% a year between now
and 2011. Software spending is expected to grow 7.5% annually.
Although software makes up less than
a quarter of IT spending, overall software related employment
for 2007 is expected to be 59% of a total IT employment. This
equates to more than 1.37 million employees in the UK.
According to DCMS figures, the UK
computer games market is the third largest globally. We have the
largest number of games development companies and publishers in
Europe with around 150 UK based development studios employing
6,000 people. The UK's console market is the largest in Europe.
The internet is a hugely positive tool that
has transformed the way we work, communicate and are entertained.
It has become as much part of our lives as innovations such as
the telephone and many people, especially young people not only
accept it as "normal", but rely on the internet as a
The internet will continue to offer new ways
for people, including children, to interact, shop and learn. Increasingly
the internet will become much more visual where currently it is
more textually based. It will also become much more local in the
services and information it offers where as at the moment it is
more national or international. When their access is managed correctly,
the internet will continue to offer children great ways of learning
and engaging with friends, family and teachers.
The internet has had a profound impact on the
economy and the whole of society, including young people. The
internet is an overwhelmingly positive innovation and there are
countless examples of how it can benefit young people as an information
resource and multi-faceted communications tool.
Within the education sector, the internet allows
for teachers who excel in specialist subjects to support other
teachers and schools with less expertise in these subjects. It
allows parents, teachers and pupils to interact much more easily
and regularly. The internet is also a great education tool in
itself allowing access to a great library of information. If managed
properly, the internet also allows children to interact with their
friends and family irrespective of how close they live to each
But what we thought would be useful is to highlight
one practical example of where an internet based technology has
had an impact on young people in education.
Learning.live.com is a good example of the positive
ways that online tools such as Windows Live Messenger can be used
other than for day-to-day socializing and networking. Learning.live.com
is the outcome of a pilot study at Lincoln School over the last
two years where year 11 pupils have been given free, fast and
confidential access to teaching staff from their own home via
Windows Live Messenger. Teachers at the school have used Windows
Live Messenger to answer pupils' questions, host "quizzes",
chair online discussions and even conduct online classes using
an on-screen interactive whiteboard.
The pilot scheme was initially introduced to
help students succeed at GCSE level and aimed at borderline C/D
grade students in six different subjects. The scheme was so successful,
it was later rolled out to year 9s, to help them with their SATs,
and is set to be rolled out to students with special needs, to
provide them with additional support.
The results of the pilot scheme indicated that
there were many benefits to applying technologies like Windows
Live Messenger to learning, for both teachers and students:
Pupils showed great enthusiasm for
the "out of classroom" question time and workshops over
Windows Live Messenger.
There were improvements to participating
Workshops helped improve the educational
engagement of pupils.
The teacher-pupil relationship improved.
Helped reduce teachers' hours through
higher student engagement.
Helped students get better results.
Lincoln School appeared on the most
improved schools list for the second time running.
Windows Live Messenger bridged the
gap between school and home technologyallowed teachers
to communicate with students using technology that pupils are
comfortable with and use everyday* (there are currently 2-3 existing
intra-schools communications messaging tools but these are usually
only used within the school environment and not at home).
As a learning tool, Windows Live
Messenger is a free and easy service which teachers can usethere's
no barrier to adoption.
Teachers found that Windows Live
Messenger could also be used for the pastoral care of students.
Furthermore, children benefit from being able
to converse in real time with fellow classmates whilst doing their
homework for example.
The wider societal benefits of the internet
are pretty clear. Many have accredited the internet with the "democratisation
of access to information" enabling anyone with a connection
to access vast amounts of information at any time of the day or
We are committed to developing technology that
gives parents the option of understanding and control what content
or game their children are viewing or playing and the amount of
time they spend online or playing a game.
When it comes to connecting to the internet,
even before consumers and/or parents look to use our parental
controls there are a number of basic security steps they should
be taking to keep their PC safe. These are:
Install virus protection.
Ensure your software is up to date.
Ensure physical security.
Lock down your wireless network.
Browse the web defensively.
There are a lot of resources available to consumers
that will help them protect themselves and their PC's against
the growing number and severity of security threats. A great place
to start is the GetSafeOnline website. This joint Government and
industry initiative supported by Microsoft provides clear, accessible
and up-to-date advice on the easy ways in which you can protect
yourself and your PC while using the internet. We recommend that
all PC users regularly visit www.getsafeonline.org to ensure you
are up-to-date with the latest online security advice.
We also offer advice about being safe online
We thought it would be useful to highlight to
the committee the parental controls technology we have developed
which is available to the consumer.
As manufacturers of the Xbox 360 video games
console, as well as Windows Live and Windows Vista, Microsoft
invests heavily in innovative solutions that help to empower parents
to make sensible choices for their children's use of hard copy
video games, games downloaded from the internet and games played
online. As a games manufacturer, we have a duty of care to help
children, young people and parents manage any potential risks
associated with playing video games.
Xbox 360 allows parents and caregivers to ensure
that their children have an even safer entertainment experience.
With easy-to-use controls, parents can:
Decide within what parameters each
child can use the Xbox console.
Customize each child's playing environment.
Control access to the online Xbox
Have approval authority over each
child's online friends list and determine what types of communications
Restrict each child's online profile
and presence (online status) to specific people.
Create personal settings for each
child, which applies to their Xbox Live account even when they
use outside the home (for example, on a friend's Xbox 360 console).
Limit each child's exposure to content
created by other members of the Xbox Live community.
Decide which games their children
can play based on the game rating.
Override their own restrictions so
they can decide, case by case, which games their children can
Control when and for how long their
children play their computer games in Xbox 360 or online access
in Windows Vista.
These controls will be applied across
all hard copy games, downloaded games, and online games played
on the Xbox 360 console.
With these controls, parents can open the Xbox
LIVE online experience to their children safely. On Xbox 360,
even younger children can have a full Xbox Live online experience.
Xbox LIVE Family Settings allow parents to limit the types of
contacts and content that children could be exposed to when playing
online or not allowing any contact at all.
Xbox 360 also uses a family timer, which enables
parents to set the amount of time their Xbox 360 can be used by
members of their householdparticularly children.
Parents can set the console to allow only specific
amounts of playing time. After that time has expired, the child
will not be able to use the console again within that 24-hour
period unless additional time is granted by the parent.
We believe that parents should have access to
information that helps them decide what age is appropriate for
their children. That is why we support the two age rating systems
for computer games that are used in the UK.
In the UK, we use a mix of BBFC (British Board
of Film Classification) and PEGI (Pan-European Game Information)
rating systems. The statutory BBFC rating is exactly the same
as used for films and DVDs and is applicable to games which are
excessively violent or sexual in nature. In practice however,
the BBFC encourages ratings for any game targeted at an audience
of people aged over 15. The PEGI self-regulatory system was established
in 2003 specifically to help parents make informed decisions about
buying interactive games for their children and includes a full
range of age and subject matter related ratings.
In the UK, parents will see a mixture of BBFC
and PEGI ratings on games when they are looking through them in
Although we feel the current rating system works
well, we recommended to the Byron Review that the Government should
consider making PEGI the sole UK rating system. The BBFC's role
should be to decide whether controversial games should not be
allowed a UK rating at all. We believe a single system would cause
less confusion and allow more focus. PEGI is more appropriate
for computer games because it gives parents both an age and a
content rating indicating whether a particular game has bad language
or violence in it for example. It also has a wider reach than
just the UK.
As the gaming experience has moved online, we
have been keen to ensure children using our Xbox Live service
remain protected by our family settings. This is why we were the
first games console manufacturer to officially sign up to PEGI
Online which is a new self regulatory regime for online gaming
which works alongside the existing PEGI ratings system and which
is designed to help parents decide which online videogames are
most suitable for their children.
PEGI Online introduces something called a "trust
seal" to identify those games which have committed to their
PEGI Online Safety Code. Videogames bearing this seal clearly
communicate that they promote safe online play and protect younger
gamers against unsuitable gaming content.
Furthermore, PEGI Information is displayed on
the back of Xbox and Xbox 360 games. It uses clearly understood
symbols and graphics to indicate, at a glance, the recommended
suitable age for a game's content as well as the kind of themes
or gameplay on offer.
We believe the risks to children should be addressed
in two ways. Firstly by educating children and parents about the
risks and benefits of using the internet and secondly, by ensuring
all products have as many controls and safeguards in place as
There are a range of mechanisms available to
parents and children to ensure that the potential and actual risks
online are managed appropriately. They are largely either technical
tools like parental controls or bodies focused on helping to deal
with illegal or inappropriate activity.
Our parental controls are available both on
the PC in the operating system with Windows Vista Parental Controls
and online with Windows Live OneCare Family Safety which can be
downloaded for free as part of the Windows Live suite.
There are a range of specific tools and accompanying
guidance that are available for all Windows Live products.
Microsoft has applied the IWF List of URLs containing
images of child sexual abuse to its Live Search filters so that
none of these URLs will ever appear within the results of a search
carried out through Live Search. This list is continually updated.
Windows Live Family Settings
Microsoft is committed to providing a more positive
and safer online experience for all children and their parents
through a combination of safety software, guidelines, and partnerships
with leading child development experts. A key deliverable of this
commitment is Windows Live Family Safety Settings (FSS) a no-charge,
Web-based, customisable safety service.
The Features of FSS
FSS includes content filtering for the Web,
contact list management tools for communication services, and
online activity reports. When used with the Web- and computer-based
family safety settings built into Windows Vista, FSS helps provide
families with valuable layers of protection.
Content filtering for the Web will allow customers
to choose settings that allow, block, or warn for a range of content
categories, including Web-based chat and e-mail communications.
FSS allows parents to apply unique settings for each member of
the household. When a user signs in to Windows Live on a computer
that is running Family Safety Settings, the filtering settings
are automatically enforced. To help meet the family's evolving
needs, parents can review and adjust settings online anytime from
any personal computer.
Through FSS, the AAP and NSPCC provide parents
with valuable guidance on age-appropriate settings and online
activities. For example, parents have access to guidelines on
how to help a child use online communications safely and on how
to talk to children about inappropriate Web browsing.
Parents can access activity reports for each
user in the family at any time from any computer connected to
the Internet. This helps them stay informed about their children's
Web browsing and online communications.
Parents can create "allow" lists for
communication services, including Windows Live Mail, Windows Live
Messenger, and Windows Live Expo, to help prevent their children
from crossing paths with unknown contacts. The "allow"
list also helps parents restrict access to a child's personal
Web log (blog) or social networking page to only those contacts
they have approved. This communication services protection will
apply any time a user is signed in through Windows Live.
Windows Live OneCare
This provides two levels of protection:
Locally on the PC via an installed
piece of software that protects a user by seamlessly integrating
and updating antivirus, firewall, antispyware and anti-phishing
protection. At the same time it improves PC performance via automated
tune-ups and allows users to back up files and restore functionality.
Onlinethe Family Settings
within OneCare creates a password-protected log-in for all users
of the PC so that a parent can control how a child communicates
using Windows Live products such as Messenger and Hotmail by managing
security settings and even approving buddies.
In addition, OneCare allows parents to either
block certain websitesby category or by address, or allow
only those sites that they wish their children to view including
a kid-friendly global list.
Windows Live Messenger
Control who IMs youUsing your
Messenger Contacts list gives you total control over who is allowed
to send you messages. For instance you have the option to create
your own manually selected list of "Allowed" contacts.
See who's contacting youBy
ticking the "Alert Me" box in the Privacy section of
Windows Live Messenger's Options screen you can be told whenever
anyone tries to add you to their Contact list.
Block someone from contacting youIf
you don't want someone to be able to contact you any more, simply
delete them from your Contact list and they won't be able to send
you any messages or even see if you are online. You can do this
even more directly by clicking "Block" on the toolbar
when you next receive a message from them.
Reporting abuseReporting a
conversation is easy. When the information is open on screen just
press the Print key on your keyboard and paste the information
into a word document along with a note of the date and time the
interaction took place.
Users can also report concerning
behaviour directly to CEOP through their dedicated Tab within
the Windows Live Messenger dialogue box.
Parents can set up Messenger so that
each and every conversation is saved to the computer's hard drive
for further monitoring if desired.
Windows Live Hotmail
Protecting your account: When setting
up a Windows Live Hotmail account you are encouraged to use passwords
and secret questions that are difficult to guess as you're much
safer if you create passwords that combine unrelated letters and
numbers rather than known words.
Spam: Adjustable personal account
filters in Windows Live Hotmail mean you're in control of what
mail gets through to your account. If you set your filters to
the highest setting: "Exclusive", Hotmail will only
deliver mail from addresses in your Contact file.
Creating a Safe List: You can easily
create a "Safe List" of contacts that you are happy
to receive mail from. Just go into Options/Mail/Junk email protection/Safe
List, type an address want to always receive mail from and click
Easy to identify unknown mail: It's
easy to identify mail from strangers in your inbox, as all mail
from addresses not in your Contacts are clearly marked with a
Block someone from contacting you:
Windows Live Hotmail makes it easy to blacklist someone you don't
want to be contacted by. All you have to do is highlight a mail
from them in your Inbox and click "Block".
Report spam: If you suspect an email
is spam, simply select it in your inbox. Then click on the "Junk"
option at the top of the page and that will automatically report
the mail to us so we can help improve filters.
Report any concerning behaviour to
Windows Live Spaces
In controlWith Windows Live
Spaces you are totally in control of the content in your Space
and the availability of that content to other people.
Controlling who sees your Windows
Live Spaces contentYou can make your Windows Live Space
completely private, completely public or available only to people
you select from your Contact list.
When you first create your Windows
Live Space it will automatically be open to all the people on
your Messenger Contact list, but if you prefer you can manually
select a smaller group of people from your Contact list.
Think about the content in your Windows
Live SpaceWhen posting content always remember you're creating
digital information that can be copied, duplicated and revised
in a few clicks so be wary about including anything too personal.
Reporting abusive or illegal activityWe
have a clear Windows Live Spaces Code of Conduct and reserves
the right to remove offensive or illegal postings and to ban participants.
We also invite members to report
any activity that breaches our Code of Conduct.
The parental controls built into Windows Vista
are designed to help parents manage what their children can do
on the computer. These controls help parents determine which games
their children can play, which programs they can use, and which
websites they can visitand when. Parents can restrict computer
use to specific times and trust that Windows Vista will enforce
those restrictions, even when they're away from home.
The Parental Controls panel, part of the User
Accounts and Family Safety Control Panel applet, centralises all
of the key settings of the Windows Vista Parental Controls.
From this one location, parents can configure
the parental controls for their computer and applications, setting
appropriate limits on their children's game playing, web browsing,
and overall computer use. The Parental Controls panel provides
a centralized location where parents can turn parental controls
on and off; block or allow specific programs, games, and websites;
and set controls for every aspect of the child's computer use.
Third-party family safety software and services providers may
also choose to have their products and services accessible from
the Parental Controls panel in Windows Vista. Parental Controls
does not work on domain-joined machines, such as in a business
From the Parental Controls panel, parents can
review easy-to-read activity reports that show how their children
have been using the computer. Monitoring their children's computer
behaviour not only makes it easy for parents to keep track of
what they are seeing, hearing, and doing, but it also enables
parents to refine and modify parental controls based on actual
feedback. The Parental Controls icon in the system tray is always
visible to let children know that the Parental Controls feature
Windows Vista enables parents to decide when
their children are allowed, or not allowed, to use the computer.
Parents are presented with a grid showing the days of the week
and the hours of the day. To restrict their computer use, parents
simply click the specific times and days that they want to block.
As a child nears the end of an approved time period, they receive
a 15-minute and a 1-minute notification that their time is about
to expire. If their time ends before they log off the computer,
Windows Vista suspends their session and displays the logon screen
so another user can use the computer. The child's session stays
active in the background, however, so the next time they log on,
they can pick up where they left off without losing any of their
Microsoft also develops and publishes
a variety of consumer education materials to help parents and
kids learn how to stay safe online together.
and also http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/online/community_safety.mspx
We have been looking at all aspects of child
safety for many years and work closely with the government and
industry bodies on tackling issues that affect children. The following
are organisations that we have worked with:
Working in partnership with CEOP
(and the Virtual Global Taskforce) to launch the Child Exploitation
Tracking System (CETS). CETS is a unique software tool developed
by Canadian police, international law enforcement officials and
Microsoft to help battle online child exploitation by enhancing
law enforcements ability to track child predators online.
Microsoft has been an active contributor
to the Home Office Task Force on Child Safety and the Internet
since its inception, including contributing to good practice guidance
documents on Chat and Instant Messaging, Moderation and Social
Members of the Internet Services
Providers Association (ISPA)largely concerned with the
regulatory environment for the Internet industry.
The Child Exploitation and Online
Protection Centre (CEOP)we have incorporated a VGT (Virtual
Global Taskforce) button on Messenger which users can click to
directly contact CEOP.
Internet Watch Foundation (IWF)we
are a key funding contributor to this charitable hotline where
illegal content (and more specifically child pornography) is reported
DCSF Cyberbullying Task Force resulting
in the publication of a guidance document and materials distributed
to schools with very practical service specific advice about how
to protect against and report cyberbullying.
As already mentioned, working with
Childnet International and the Virtual Global Taskforce, we launched
the Getting to Know IT All campaign.
Microsoft made a difficult decision in October
2003 to permanently close all of its European chat rooms in an
attempt to enhance children's safety on the MSN network. All of
our communications services now require registration before they
can be used.
Of course, it is essential that consumers, especially
parents, use the technology available to ensure that they and
their families are safe online and that their children are only
viewing appropriate content. We see encouraging consumers and
parents to take advantage of these technologies as absolutely
essential. We take part in a number of programmes and produce
a range of materials to help highlight the importance of being
safe online and how best to use our technology. We also recognise
that it is Government that can really drive an education programme
whether that is through a public information campaign or by targeting
children in schools or both.
This is why we suggested to the Byron Review
that it should recommend that Government should launch a public
information campaign and we would be happy to discuss how we could
get involved if appropriate. In addition to a more general public
information campaign, we recommended a more targeted campaign
in schools, possibly using the model created by the Getting to
Know IT All campaign where Microsoft employees, working in partnership
with the Police, Childnet International and CEOP, visited over
100 schools to talk to children about being safe online.
There are many opportunities for children, young
people and parents to learn about safe, responsible and fulfilling
video game playing. As we already highlighted above, the PEGI
information, which is displayed on the back of Xbox and Xbox 360
games, offers important guidelines for family-oriented entertainment
on Xbox 360.
Furthermore, as one example, our Xbox.com site
provides a Family Gaming Pact brochure for parents and children
to agree and commit to safe gaming practices. MSN has also introduced
a printed brochure for parents entitled, "Child Safety on
the Internet: Useful Tips for Parents", which includes a
sample agreement between parents and children on agreeable use
of the computer, including online activities and gaming.
We have also preparing to launch of a new document,
"Play Smart, Play Safe: A Family Guide to Video Games".
This document will provide information about computer and video
games and about the rating system that exists in the UK to help
parents determine what is age-appropriate for children. It also
provides parents with information about Microsoft's parental controls,
including a step-by-step guide on how to operate them on consoles
We also have a comprehensive parental controls
section on our Xbox.com website and support other industry efforts
online to highlight this issue.
Of course the smartest software can only help
if it is used. This is where everyone has a role to play; industry,
government, parents and of course children themselves.
For children we want to:
help them to protect their online
encourage them to use the protective
filters available to them; and
educate them about how to quickly
and effectively report issues such as bullying if necessary.
We create special areas on the MSN site where
parents, teachers and kids can learn more about safety and security
issues http://help.uk.msn.com/. We have also more recently developed
a section within MSN dedicated to cyberbullying; how to tackle
it, how to report it and where they can get more help. As mentioned,
Microsoft is an active industry member of the DCSF Cyberbullying
Task Force and contributed to the Guidance document published
Know IT All for Teachers: Partnering with the
Training and Development Agencywe have also developed a
version of the Getting to Know IT All campaign information to
help trainee teachers learn how to teach internet safety.
The inquiry has specifically asked about cyberbullying.
Microsoft feels that this question would be most appropriately
answered by specialists and those with direct experience like
children, young people and their parents. However, we thought
that the Committee would be interested in the key findings of
a report we conducted into cyberbullying in February 2006 and
the advice we offer young people and their parents if they become
Key findings included:
One in 10 children (11%) have experienced
One in eight (13%) say cyberbullying
is worse than physical bullying.
Half of UK parents (48%) are unaware
of the phenomenon of cyberbullying.
Girls are twice as likely to know
someone or several people that have been cyberbullied, over a
third (35%) compared to one in six (17%) boys.
Almost three-quarters of children
(74%) did not go to anyone for advice last time they'd been cyber-bullied.
One in 20 children admit to bullying
someone else online.
The advice we offer parents and young people
is as follows:
In extreme cases, alert the police
to the activity.
Discuss the possible implications
of sharing personal information online.
Make it clear from the moment you
give your child online access that it will never be taken away
because of them reporting inappropriate/offensive behaviour. Our
research shows that only 17% of children who'd been cyberbullied
told their parents because they feared having their internet access
taken away. Once they have accepted help, the majority of teens
are grateful they did. Two thirds of 12-15 year olds we researched
found the help they sought "very helpful".
We encourage parents to closely monitor their
child's online activity to prevent exposure to inappropriate content.
As mentioned above, Windows Vista and Window Live offers a variety
of Parental Control features globally that enable parents to control
their children's activities online. Microsoft is continuously
looking at solutions to eliminate illegal content within our search
results. Microsoft strives to return no adult content for consumer's
queries that may not be legal, and works with law enforcement
For common, unambiguous sexual search terms,
Live Search does not serve or return queries. Instead, we clearly
notify the customer, via an adult content warning, that they must
be over 18 to view explicit material, and we ask them to confirm
that they are over 18 before continuing.
Microsoft currently has worldwide partnerships
with NightSurf (WebPower) across 15 international countries and
PleasureFind (Overture) in the UK. These third party sites do
not have any illegal content, teen content or hardcore explicit
images displayed on their home pages.
By default, Live Search filters out explicit
images and search results through the Image Search Tool and in
the UK, Microsoft works closely with the Internet Watch Foundation
(IWF), to report inappropriate sites to the IWF's "blacklist".
With the default "SafeSearch" setting of "Moderate",
Live Search will automatically filter sexually explicit images.
A consumer can proactively increase their "SafeSearch"
setting to "Strict", which causes MSN Search to filter
out both sexually explicit text results and sexually explicit
images. Live Search uses a combination of software and human editors
to set the filter parameters, however Live Search cannot guarantee
that all adult content will be excluded at the "Moderate"
or "Strict" settings.
We believe that data protection and privacy
are key issues for establishing and maintaining consumer trust.
The internet today is fuelled by online advertising. Many websites
are able to offer their content and services online for free,
precisely because of the income they derive from advertising.
Simply stated, the Internet would not be the diverse and useful
medium it has become, without advertising. At the same time, online
advertising presents challenges and risks. The ability to target
online ads depends on information that companies collect from
or about Internet users. Needless to say, much of this information
may be viewed as personal.
Microsoft is committed to protecting the privacy
of our customers and believes they deserve to have their personal
data used only in ways they have agreed to, and in ways that provide
that consumers should have the ability to control the collection,
use and disclosure of their personal information.
We believe that our customers should be in control
of their information, and it is this belief which guides the design
of all our products and services. It is the responsibility of
each individual company to nourish a culture that truly values
and respects privacy. In that spirit, Microsoft was one of the
first companies to appoint a chief privacy officer, an action
we took nearly a decade ago, and we currently employ over 40 employees
who focus on privacy fulltime, and another 390 who focus on it
as a part of their jobs.
We have devoted considerable time, energy, and
resources to the development of privacy related standards that
serve as a practical guide to our handling of personal data. Last
July, we announced additional privacy principles related to search
and online advertising.
Microsoft's core privacy principles are based
on three key concepts: transparency, consent and security. They
embrace user control, search data anonymisation, data protection,
legal compliance and industry best practices.
Our first core principle concerns transparency.
We have redoubled our efforts to provide users with clear notice
about our policies and practices so that they can make informed
choices. We were one of the first companies to develop a so-called
"layered" approach to privacy notification, in which
users can click on links to obtain more detailed information about
a company's privacy practices. This helps avoid the problem of
information overload, while enabling consumers to be fully informed.
of the key information our customers need to understand Microsoft's
practices from the very beginningincluding a statement
that data may be used for the display of personalised content
and advertising. Additionally, our Online Privacy Statement is
readily accessible from every page of each major online service
that we operate.
Our second core principle involves user control.
This is critical. Currently, we are developing new technologies
that will dramatically enhance such control, for example, by allowing
signed in users to control personalisation using their search
history. Similarly, when we begin to offer advertising services
to third party websites, we will comply with the principles of
the Network Advertising Initiative by allowing users to opt-out
altogether from behavioural ad targeting by Microsoft.
Another core Microsoft privacy principle concerns
security and minimisation by design. In other words, we design
our systems and processes in ways that minimise, from the outset,
their privacy impact while promoting security. For example, we
use encryption technology (known as a one way cryptographic hash)
to store search terms separately from account holders' personal
information, such as name, email address, and phone number. We
have also designed our online ad platform to only use data for
ad targeting that does not personally and directly identify individual
Microsoft invests heavily in protecting all
of our online services from unauthorized access, attacks and other
malicious activity. These measures include vigorous physical as
well as virtual measures to keep data safe, detailed data protection
and security plans, third party audits, code reviews, and advanced
intrusion detection, to name just a few of the elements. Related
to our core principles of transparency, control, and security
is the important issue of data retention. We have implemented
specific retention policies with respect to search query data,
and we currently anonymise all such data after 18 months, unless
we receive user consent for longer retention.
We believe that 18 months is the minimum necessary
in current circumstances for the security, integrity, and relevance
of our services. However, we have taken a very strict approach
to anonymizing search terms by irreversibly removing the entire
IP address and all other cross session identifiers, such as cookies
and other machine identifiers, from search terms. This renders
that information truly anonymous. In terms of the impact on user
privacy, complete and irreversible anonymity is the most important
point heremore impactful than whether data is retained
for 13 vs 18 vs 24 months.
Finally, we are committed to complying not only
with our legal obligations but also with industry best practices
in all of the markets in which we operate. We participate in the
Safe Harbour Framework regarding the collection, use, and retention
of data collected from European residents. We also adhere to the
standards set forth in the Organization for Economic Cooperation
and Development (OECD) privacy guidelines, and, as we begin to
offer advertising services on third party websites, we plan to
follow applicable principles of the Network Advertising Initiative.
These principles build on our other privacy
efforts, including our support for comprehensive privacy legislation
in the United States and our release of privacy guidelines to
help developers build meaningful privacy protections into their
own software programs. We will also continue to make significant
investments in data protection in terms of dedicated personnel,
training, and building robust privacy standards into our product
development cycles and other business processes.
Data protection is a continuous journey, not
a single destination. We are committed to continue to improve
our privacy measures as we seek to develop and implement new protections
in the context of complex, evolving technologies. Protecting privacy
is a core value for Microsoft, and we are committed to working
hard to bring the benefits of transparency, consent and security
to the protection of consumers' data and privacy online.
At Microsoft, we are committed to producing
technology that gives consumers and parents the ability to protect
themselves and their children online whilst also ensuring that
minors are only given access to appropriate content both online
and when playing computer games. We are also committed to working
in partnership with the experts in Government, NGOs, Law Enforcement
and the Industry to make using the internet and playing computer
games as safe as is possible.
Although it is important to remember that the
internet and computer games are used and enjoyed by millions early
day with no ill effects or threat to these individuals, sadly
it is misused by a tiny minority. It is clearly essential that
consumers are aware of the potential threats posed by this minority
and how to go about minimising these dangers. As we have highlighted,
we believe that there is a role for Government in educating consumers,
parents and children in how to protect themselves online and to
ensure that minors are only accessing appropriate content. We
would be happy to discuss with Government and MPs how we could
help with achieve these objectives.