Microsoft says tech companies must play their part in national security, but also have to protect customers
For the first time, Microsoft has revealed it provided law enforcement agencies with customers’ data following the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015
Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, reaffirmed his company’s support for Apple in its current stand-off with the FBI over a request to unlock a terrorist’s iPhone, but said all companies must play their part in protecting the public.
Speaking at RSA Conference 2016 in San Francisco, he said: “One of the most important things Steve Jobs ever said was that he always aimed to be at the intersection of engineering and the liberal arts.”
“We all need to work at this intersection. It’s a complex world and we need to work together.
“We need to step up and we need to stand for things. But we need to be broad minded and constantly remind the world of all the things we are thinking about.
Clearly, the tech industry not only has a role to play, it has a responsibility to help keep the public safe, according to Smith.
He said: “That’s one of the points that Apple is making in Congress today. It’s why for years at Microsoft we’ve had a digital crimes unit and why it’s our privilege to partner with other companies in our industry.
“It’s why we’re taking steps to protect the most vulnerable people, be they the youngest or oldest members of our society. It’s why when things go wrong people often call tech companies.
“One thing we haven’t shared previously with the public is that in the days and weeks after the Paris terrorist attacks Microsoft received 14 lawful orders seeking content about terrorist suspects who were, at the point, at large in France and Belgium.”
In all 14 of those cases, Microsoft was able to respond, determine that the orders were lawful, pull the content and turn it over. It did that in an average response time of less than 30 minutes.
“We do play our role,” said Smith. “But we also need to stand up for customers.
“And that’s what we’ve tried to do in other cases. We believe emphatically that when the Government wants to investigate a legitimate business and it wants information that belongs to that business, it should go to the business and serve a warrant or subpoena on the business and not go to the cloud services provider instead.
“This is the way that law and law enforcement agencies have worked in the USA for more than two centuries. Cloud computing should not change that balance. Businesses have a right to know so they that can defend themselves.”
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