Microsoft calls on US to stop mass snooping

Microsoft’s chief lawyer called for the US government to stop bulk collection of data, saying it hurts tech firms.

Brad Smith, general counsel, has been repeatedly making that point in blog posts and interviews since the Snowden leaks revealed the extent of government surveillance, while Microsoft has challenged FBI requests to hand over data held in Ireland.

Now, he has called on US Congress to “close the door on unfettered bulk collection of data”, in a speech at the Brookings Institute.

After the September 11, 2011 attacks in the US, the government asked for access to Microsoft data. The company decided the “only basis” it would hand over data is via a legal process – and if the existing laws didn’t give enough access, then those laws needed to be changed, not ignored.

We can not live in the wild west when we’re talking about information that is this important to people

Smith said: “if the US government felt that it had a need for the private communications of our customers, it should turn to the legal process, and if it felt that legal process didn’t go far enough, it shouldn’t ask us for help.”

He called for regulations that allow authorities to protect public safety, while still preserving freedoms and promoting trust. “People will only use technology if they trust it,” Smith said.

Smith added that “over the long term, the world will expect and even insist that [technology firms] pay as much attention to the personal information of consumers as banks do to their money.”

Governments need to come up with international agreements so data can be shared across borders when it should be, he added. “We can not live in the wild west when we’re talking about information that is this important to people.”

You can watch the entire speech here:

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