Microsoft knows that you probably don't trust it completely with your sensitive info, especially if you live outside the US. What assurances will you get that you won't be spied on, or sold down the river? The company thinks it has an answer: it just became the first big service provider to adopt a new international standard for privacy in the cloud. The guideline requires that Microsoft give its business clients (and by extension, you) guarantees about what happens to online data. It'll only handle personal info according to instructions, makes it clear where that data is going, enforces strict limits on public use and promises that content won't be used for ads. Importantly, the measure also requires that Microsoft give a heads-up about government requests for data whenever the law allows.
The pledge is partly symbolic -- Microsoft already follows a lot of these principles. However, the standard puts that promise into writing, and gives other companies (not to mention governments) a privacy model they can follow. There's no certainty that your cloud data will be much more secure as a result, but wide adoption of the standard could eliminate a lot of the uncertainty surrounding privacy when your files change hands or cross borders.
[Image credit: AP Photo/Eric Risberg]