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

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a 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 on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.