Microsoft, the maker of the Windows 10 operating system and Web browsers like Internet Explorer, has adopted new, very tough privacy rules. In fact, it's the first U.S. company to do so, and you'll hope others follow its lead.
It affects your online communications, notably the ones you send to other countries. If your family and friends are scattered around the world (and whose aren't?) you need to know about this.
Microsoft has agreed to use the European Union's Privacy Shield standard. Among other things, these rules would require companies to say if a government is requesting your personal information.
"In a time when business and communications increasingly depend on the transmission of personal data across borders," wrote John Frank, Vice President of EU Government Affairs at Microsoft, on Microsoft's blog, "no one should give up their privacy rights simply because their information is stored in electronic form or their technology service provider transfers it to another country."
Privacy Shield replaces a previous rule on privacy that the EU overturned. That one is called Safe Harbour and was also meant to protect your privacy, but the European Union struck that rule down. They complained it made it too easy to companies to share your private information between countries, such as when exiled whistle-blower Edward Snowden revealed that the U.S. government was spying on you.
However, critics of Privacy Shield, which would be a voluntary rule for most companies if enacted, say it doesn't go far enough to protect anyone's privacy. Microsoft agreed, but said it's a good foundation for more privacy rules to be built on.
"We have reviewed the Privacy Shield documentation in detail, and we believe wholeheartedly that it represents an effective framework and should be approved," Frank wrote.
(Microsoft's Windows 10 doesn't have a great track record when it comes to your privacy. Read about it here.)