Data Privacy Has Become One Of The 'Fundamental Freedoms Of Our Time'

Brad Smith
President and Chief Legal Officer of Microsoft

Data is expensive. Most if not all companies that deliver their services through the internet, have to at least collect some user data for reasons like analytics or understanding user behavior.

As people started acknowledging privacy issues that can happen when companies collect, process and store their information, data privacy has become one of the “fundamental freedoms of our time,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith.

Almost every time, data travels from users' devices to data servers that can be half way across the globe.

Smith explained this by saying:

"I think it starts with just helping us all understand how the cloud works. It sounds fuzzy, warm, but it’s in fact data in massive data centers."

"That's why we start the book by taking people on a tour of a data center, in effect. It does mean that the location of data, the building of data centers, it actually is one of the central human rights issues of our time. Tech companies need to think more about it, as a society, across this country, we need to think more about it."

Brad Smith

He commented this following the U.S. Federal Trade Commission ramps up their investigations into big tech firms, relating to antitrust allegations. And this is why he believes the issues "reflect the state of technology in our time."

Smith went on by saying:

"It's a tool and a weapon. It's something that affects all of us. I think it's natural that governments here and around the world are taking a closer look at the tech sector. I think the real question is: what are the problems that people want to solve? Is it privacy, is it security? Is it about economic power? Is it about access to technology? I think over the next several years we'll be affected by all these things."

Smith also suggests tech companies to change how they moderate their platforms, in response to new laws, regardless whether lawmakers take action or not.

"The laws around the world are going to change," he said, explaining that tech companies should have a "new level of responsibility” for what they say on their respective websites.

Together, tech companies have the responsibility to work with one another to help bridge the so-called digital divide, in which he called it "the technological underpinning for many of the major social, economic and political issues of the day."

It's the technology industry's responsibility to the society to bring this to discussion.

“It’s hard to innovate if you can’t use something, and it’s hard to learn if you can’t innovate,” Smith said. But still, companies need to ensure users that their data is safe, and won't be sold to any unknown third-parties or governments.

Besides that, companies need to make public policy matters, like protecting consumer privacy and establishing ethical guidelines for Artificial Intelligence.

As one of the tech companies popular for its products, Microsoft has undergone a corporate personality change over the years No more it is the threatening bully it was in the personal computer era. The market is shifting, and this is why transformation must happen.

“When your technology changes the world,” Smith wrote on his book, “you bear a responsibility to help address the world that you have helped create.” And governments, “need to move faster and start to catch up with the pace of technology.”