Microsoft Logo at IgniteSource: Windows Central

What you need to know

  • In June 2021, Microsoft investors questioned whether the company's surveillance products and stated corporate values were mutually exclusive.
  • Said questioning took the form of shareholder proposals.
  • Now, Microsoft is proceeding with a third-party review to assess its products' human rights impacts.

A stir was created in June 2021 over Microsoft's surveillance technology's applications and their seemingly diametric opposition to the company's stated values. This conflict was brought to the public's attention in large part by shareholder proposals. Now, Microsoft has confirmed it's having a third-party review done to assess whether its products and values are misaligned.

Said proposal situation has been defused and shareholders have withdrawn their motions, according to a Bloomberg report that also states Microsoft is undergoing a third-party review to assess what impact its surveillance technology is having on human rights. Here is Microsoft's statement:

In response to shareholder requests, Microsoft Corp. will commission an independent, third-party assessment to identify, understand, assess, and address actual or potential adverse human rights impacts of the company's products and services and business relationships with regard to law enforcement, immigration enforcement, and other government contracts. The assessment will include consultation with BIPOC communities, including immigrants, and other groups representing communities most impacted by Microsoft's surveillance products, law enforcement and government contracts.

The findings of this review are expected to drop in 2022, indicating it will be some time before answers are given regarding whether human rights are being violated or negatively impacted by Microsoft's surveillance technology deals with police and government agencies.

This is far from the first time Microsoft's shareholders have asked hard questions. Recently, Microsoft and the "right to repair" movement had a big moment as a result of shareholder activity.