Global Conversations About Principles and Privacy

Posted in Brad Smith, Government Access to Data

Last week, Microsoft General Counsel and Executive Vice President Brad Smith participated in two public events in Europe that focused on how best to strike the right balance between personal privacy and public safety, issues that were front and center given the recent tragic events in Paris.

Brad emphasized that 2015 needs to be the year of solutions. He outlined a set of principles on which we can build and laid out concrete steps we could take to move forward.

Here’s a summary of his comments from both events:

Fighting Shadows: A Discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos

On Jan. 24, Brad participated in a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland. He highlighted the importance of democratically elected governments – rather than private companies – as being the right entities to establish the balance between personal privacy and public safety. Brad also highlighted the vital role that encryption plays in keeping information safe from all sorts of threats, and argued against government requests for backdoors in technology products. “The path to Hell starts at the backdoor,” Brad said. “It compromises protection for everybody on everything.” He explained that there are only two ways to keep people’s information private: better laws or better tech. “If you don’t want people to deploy better technology then let’s get a consensus around that the law should be.”

You can watch the webcast of “Fighting Shadows” panel here with the discussion on encryption beginning around 52 minutes.

Safety, Privacy, and the Internet Paradox: 2015 and the Need for New Trans-Atlantic Rules

On Jan. 17, Brad spoke to an audience at an event organized by the Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels, Belgium. In his speech, he called for Europe and the United States to forge a modern set of trans-Atlantic rules that can work across the Atlantic. These rules should enable law enforcement to obtain information needed for lawful investigations across borders, while at the same time sustaining privacy protections for citizens and protecting free expression. Any solution should be grounded in principles of respect for the rule of law, transparency, accountability, protecting fundamental freedoms, and respect for national sovereignty. In his speech, Brad outlined five ideas that should form the basis for a modern set of trans-Atlantic rules.

You can read Brad’s speech in full here.