In a recent deep-dive feature story, the MIT Technology Review hails Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith as a “civil rights crusader” for leading Microsoft’s legal and public policy effort to strengthen digital privacy.
The article details how Microsoft has taken the federal government to court to help see that Constitutional privacy protections apply to digital communications as much as to “data stored on paper.”
According to Smith, “We are in a new age of technology that requires a new understanding of our fundamental rights.”
Reporter Tim Simonite writes that in the fight for digital privacy, “Smith stands out.” Ashkan Soltani, a privacy researcher and former chief technologist for the Federal Trade Commission echoes this sentiment. “Technology executives at his level aren’t usually so visible and active on issues of privacy and security.”
Business Opportunities at Stake
While protecting digital privacy is a civil rights issue, MIT Technology Review’s story also underscores the business value at stake for technology companies and their customers. “To win and keep customers, particularly among companies overseas, [Microsoft] must be seen as a safe, trustworthy custodian of their data.”
Voices for Innovation has heard the same point raised by Microsoft partners, who also want to ensure their customers’ data is adequately protected.
The article details Microsoft’s battle with government authorities over gag orders as well. Microsoft, along with Google, Facebook, and Yahoo, eventually won the right to publicly inform customers about the number of data requests that are made by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Microsoft is still engaged in a suit about whether or not the government can indefinitely prevent the company from informing customers that they are targets of an investigation. That suit has been joined by several other technology companies, news organizations, trade associations, and others.
Read the whole article: “Microsoft’s Top Lawyer Becomes a Civil Rights Crusader”
Smith has also been a lead advocate for proposed legislation, the International Communications Privacy Act (ICPA), to strengthen digital privacy. You can learn more and voice your support here.