Microsoft: it's time for an international convention on government access to your data

Microsoft, along with other companies have been in the news surrounding the US National Security Agency (NSA) and general privacy concerns that government agencies have easy access to customer data. Brad Smith, General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs at Microsoft, recently published a blog post detailing now is the time for an international convention on government access to data.

US President Barack Obama recently spoke about the role of the NSA along with some important changes to come regarding surveillance practices. Smith goes on to talk about the upcoming World Economic Forum, which will be held in Davos, Switzerland on January 21st. Privacy concerns will be on the agenda at this meeting, as well as the reform of government surveillance. 

Smith notes that the time has come for a wider discussion about privacy and data protection against such practices, which is hoped to result in an international framework for both surveillance and data access rules to be formed and enforced around the world. We're talking about human rights and individual privacy, but not to an extreme sense that governments and authorities cannot tackle potential issues (ie. terrorism).

Outlook Lead

Just how secure and private is your personal data?

Since technology is developing at an alarming rate, which is viewed as nothing short of magical for enthusiasts such as you and I, protection for consumers also has to advance to keep up with how the world is changing. It'll be interesting to see just how Microsoft (and other supporting companies / parties) can help shape some new processes that enable data access to authorities while ensuring consumer privacy is protected.

A international framework would also cease confusion between regions when multiple countries are affected. Microsoft's Smith provides an example as to how a convention could work on an international stage. With a world further computing and storing data in the cloud, clearer rules for data access would not only provide better piece of mind for consumers, but also ensure there are less hurdles for companies operating in one country for customers in another.

Companies have also worked hard to fight for greater transparency with both Microsoft and Google suing the US Government over surveillance transparency. Previously stating that while NSA does not have direct access to backend systems and services, the tech giants admitted they were legally unable to disclose how many data requests have been completed. Smith said the following in a previous article:

"We believe we have a clear right under the US constitution to share more information with the public. The purpose of our litigation is to uphold this right so that we can disclose additional data."

We recommend you check out the full post over on TechNet, it's a really good Tuesday read. We'll keep our eyes open for more details in the future of any potential plans for reform on an international scale. That said, it's positive to see Microsoft take such a stance on this issue, even if this post by Smith is published coincidentally after mercenary hackers, HackingTeam, claimed they've gained full control over Windows Phone for governments.

Source: TechNet (opens in new tab)

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds is Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him over on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.

  • Good, it's about time. Then again, MS seems to have other problems:
  • Come on dude, cut the FUD. Nowhere in any agreement that was "leaked" did it say Microsoft. Not once. All these agreements are between Machinima and their partners, so please, its bad enough that tech blogs are misreporting, don't bring that nonsense here.
  • Guys like this are the ones with a cone mold and boxes of aluminum foil stocked up for endless amounts of hats.
  • @Jas00555
    Thanks for clarifying.
  • It doesn't really have to say Microsoft. People should still know when they are really given an honest opinion, which is rarely the case when there is money involved. From what I've heard XBone is a good system (hasn't released here yet so haven't tried), but I'd advice people to ignore anything with the "XB1M13" -tag.
  • For it to be Microsoft's fault, yes, it has to say Microsoft. Any deal between Machinima and its partners is between Machinima and its partners. Unless Microsoft explicitly or implicitly did something, then they're not responsible for what Machinima does, regardless if it's their product or not.
  • Cassius, as quoted by Cicero, gave us the question: Cui bono?  To whom the benefit, is what it means. And in this case? What benefit does Machinima or Youtube or anyone else derive from a scheme like this, where positive coverage of the Xbone translates into money?    Cui bono? Microsoft. 
  • And Benny Hill told us to not assume
  • Check the front page of wpcentral.
  • I read your post while humming the Benny Hill theme music
  • Oh, get real. This is all just part of Microsoft's "Scroogled" campaign to make people evermore leery of Google.
  • Data mining and surveillance is an issue. Big brother doesn't need to know what I do. I have Facebook to tell him. 8)
  • Hahahah! Most people put out more information than is stolen.
  • Just like I'm about as regular as it gets. Just talking sh!t....Wait, I should use Twatter for that right??
  • It actually doesn't really matter if they know what you do or not. What matters is that they know everything about everyone that decides court cases and legislation. This becomes too perfect for extortion, blackmail, coercion, and for a subtle message of unknown consequences to those considering being non-compliant. This empowers the concept of "Absolute power corrupts absolutely".  That "subtle message" is also enough to worry just enough voters into not opposing a current administration and changes the outcome of elections.
  • I see we have a conspiracy theorist here. Although, I agree its too easy to believe that just is just, right is right, wrong is wrong, and what the people say they want is what they get. I do have 2 state congress members in my family and they ARE doing their jobs. Politics is a business that has way too much potential for ugliness.
  • Nice frames
  • Haha, not sure if bono or Michael fisher from pocketnow...
  • Nice Gunnar.
  • Isn't that a MacBook in the photo? I think I see the weird squiggly key that's only used for Mac (Command, I believe it's called?).
  • I think the blue and orange lights under the screen suggest otherwise. Also the keys don't look black to me.
  • Acer Aspire S7 :-)
  • The one in the second picture looks more like a MacBook
  • That is old-school thinking, says the "tin-foil hat" crowd. At this point, too many are too invested to actually turn the tide. This will go nowhere. This is the New America, the current China, the current Russia, and the future for everyone else. When the previous U.S. administration spied on a few dozen conversations between known terrorist sympathizers and someone in the USA, all hell broke loose for the targeted spying without a warrant (old America with critical journalists). This administration claims that it is legally permissible as long as ALL American citizens are spied on equally. They are then, through someone appointed, free to glean whatever information they want on specific individuals from that universally acquired information (New America with compliant journalists). This is obviously a tactic perfect for extortion, blackmail, coercion, and for a subtle message of unknown consequences to those considering being non-compliant with the administration. Why risk voting against the administration or supporting the opposition if you have too much to lose? This could explain the surprise legislative and judicial vote switching towards the administration's favor in the U.S. during recent years (Chicago style politics). These tactics have worked well for those in power in many countries. Now, leaders throughout the world facing an upcoming election merely need to contact the USA or another "friendly nation" to obtain the information needed to knock out any potential political opponents.  With vast dependent lower-class supporters of redistributive agendas being expanded through immigration in first world countries around the world, along with rapidly expanding pay-to-play upper-class supporters financing redistributive agendas, the non-supporters will be mocked as fools and will be left to suffer the consequences of non-compliance. According to the tin-foil hat crowd, this is the New World Order. It has been arranged for you. Virtual voting will ensure it. Techie supporters will enable it.  Unfortunately, it's starting to seem less like a conspiracy theory and is edging closer to reality lately.
  • And then theres the internet of things (IoT). Very cool and all, except security on all the things is next to non-existent. It appears we have not learned our lesson, even after years of attacks from and on our servers, desktops, and lately our phones. Do we really think its going to get any better with IoT?
    “The global attack campaign involved more than 750,000 malicious email communications coming from more than 100,000 everyday consumer gadgets such as home-networking routers, connected multi-media centers, televisions and at least one refrigerator that had been compromised and used as a platform to launch attacks" --Proofpoint press release, via Forbes
  • We need to set term limits on all politicians. Problem solved.
  • Only Google should be allowed to spy on us like this. The NSA is unfair government intrusion into the Private Sector!
  • All agency's are spying on everyone like you're spying on wpcentral :)
  • The NSA needs to be shut down and all of the leaders controlling it should be put in Guantanamo Bay for terrorist acts on American soil. It has recently come to light that the NSA only helps stop terrorist acts 1.8% of the time. So what are they doing the rest of the time? They're not adding to our Freedom. And they are using our money to do all of this. Freedom doesn't include safety, we are losing both as long as the NSA is operating.
  • They are on facebook playing candy crush :)