Mi­crosoft joins calls for laws to pro­tect pri­vacy

Business Day - - INTERNATIONAL - Todd Shields and Caro­line Hyde

Mi­crosoft’s CEO Satya Nadella joined a swelling cho­rus call­ing for na­tional pri­vacy leg­is­la­tion, days af­ter Google be­came the lat­est tech giant to re­veal a per­sonal data breach.

“We hope that there’s more of a na­tional pri­vacy law,” Nadella said in an in­ter­view on Wed­nes­day at the US Naval Acad­emy in An­napo­lis, Mary­land, where he dis­cussed lead­er­ship.

Nadella char­ac­terised pri­vacy as “a hu­man right”.

Tech com­pa­nies are al­ready fac­ing tough new Eu­ro­pean pri­vacy rules that went into ef­fect in May, while Cal­i­for­nia passed a strict data pri­vacy law in June. A na­tional law is prefer­able to leg­is­la­tion forged by in­di­vid­ual states and would re­duce “trans­ac­tional costs” to the ben­e­fit of com­pa­nies large and small, Nadella said.

His com­ments re­flect grow­ing fer­ment around pri­vacy fol­low­ing fail­ures by tech com­pa­nies. Sen­a­tor John Thune, a South Dakota Repub­li­can and the chair­man of the US Se­nate com­merce com­mit­tee, said at a hear­ing ear­lier on Wed­nes­day Congress is con­tem­plat­ing pri­vacy leg­is­la­tion.

“It is in­creas­ingly clear that in­dus­try self-reg­u­la­tion in this area is not suf­fi­cient,” Thune said in pre­pared re­marks.

Al­pha­bet’s Google be­came the lat­est ex­am­ple of flawed pri­vacy pro­tec­tion ear­lier this week. The com­pany said it found a “soft­ware glitch” in its Google+ so­cial net­work in March that could have ex­posed the per­sonal data of half-amil­lion users, but de­cided not to tell the pub­lic un­til Mon­day.

At a Septem­ber Se­nate hear­ing, ex­ec­u­tives of big tech com­pa­nies told Congress they favour new fed­eral con­sumer safe­guards. Ap­ple sug­gested its own pri­vacy con­cepts be in­cor­po­rated into leg­is­la­tion.

Nadella also dealt with cy­ber­se­cu­rity is­sues in the in­ter­view, and said Mi­crosoft was not af­fected by a hack in China that in­volved tam­per­ing with crit­i­cal tech­nol­ogy com­po­nents bound for the US. “We’re very con­fi­dent that we have no ex­po­sure,” he said.

Un­der Nadella, Mi­crosoft is con­fronting is­sues such as whether re­straints are needed on emerg­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence prod­ucts, and how to stop com­puter-en­abled elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence. At the same time, the Red­mond, Wash­ing­ton­based soft­ware giant is try­ing to land a ma­jor de­fence con­tract.

Mi­crosoft said on Tues­day it is on track to catch up with Ama­zon by ob­tain­ing top fed­eral se­cu­rity autho­ri­sa­tion early next year. That could bol­ster its po­si­tion in a win­ner-take-all com­pe­ti­tion for a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar cloud com­put­ing con­tract from the Pen­tagon. Ama­zon Web Ser­vices al­ready holds the re­quired se­cu­rity cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Tech com­pa­nies are pre­par­ing to sub­mit bids for the con­tract that could last as long as 10 years and be val­ued at as much as $10bn.

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