Have you checked out Microsoft Passport service? Passport is one of the core services for Microsoft .NET technology. Passport simplifies the sign-up and logon process for any of the Web sites that implement Passport technology. Passport works as an online wallet, where users can enter their personal information (which is then centrally stored online) and later log on to any Passport-enabled Web site by simply clicking a button on the site. The technology simplifies e-commerce by eliminating a cumbersome registration process for every site with which a user wants to conduct e-commerce. But the technology isn't just for adults and businesses—Microsoft also provides a service called Kids Passport, which helps sites obtain parental consent before collecting information about children. You can learn more about Passport services at the Microsoft Web site.

Numerous companies have already implemented Passport technology, including Office Depot, Office Max, RadioShack, 1-800-Flowers.com, McAfee, Oshman's, and Victoria's Secret, and many more are slated to do the same. Overall, Passport sounds like a much-needed technology, but even with so many major companies supporting it, is it really safe for consumers? Privacy groups raise key concerns regarding Passport, including Microsoft's centralized storage of any user-provided information, as well as the overall security of Passport's single sign-in technology. As a result, a group of privacy advocates that includes the Center for Democracy and Technology met with Microsoft last week—the first of a series of meetings—to discuss Passport services. Be sure to read Paul Thurrott's related news story to learn about the first meeting.

If you're interested in protecting your privacy online (who isn't?), you might like to know that the CDT has a useful guide called "CDT's Guide to Online Privacy." I looked at the guide and found it full of useful information, including links to great third-party information. For example, the guide offers the top 10 ways to protect your privacy online; help with developing Web site privacy policies; an FAQ regarding online profiling and user tracking; information about legal protections and privacy-related government legislation; information regarding privacy-related legal debates and trials; links to third-party privacy resources; and even a decent glossary of related terms. It's one of the best guides to online privacy that I've seen to date—be sure to check it out.

Before I sign off this week, I want to remind you that Microsoft has released new security fixes for Outlook 2000 and Outlook 2002. The fixes help eliminate serious security problems related to Outlook's View Control. The problems afford intruders excessive access to your Outlook-related data, so be sure to read about the new fixes in Paul Thurrott's related news story.