Microsoft's top counsel urges Congress to act, protect private data of citizens


Microsoft's top counsel Brad Smith has urged that the Congress should work towards protecting the private and confidential data of U.S. citizens from government investigation.

Brad Smith is Microsoft's general counsel and executive vice president, Legal and Corporate Affairs. Smith argues that Congress has done little to protect U.S. citizens' data from various government agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA). Smith also says that Congress should step-up and stop the technology abuse by various companies. The Microsoft executive suggests that lawmakers should make sure that companies are accountable to regulators.

"It needs to be well-designed regulation, it needs to be thoughtful, it needs to be balanced, but we cannot live in the Wild West when we're talking about information that is this important to people," says Smith.

As per Smith, law enforcement agencies in the U.S. should perform their jobs in an effective way, but in accordance with the law.

Smith highlights the importance of online privacy as it is expected to grow rapidly in the near term. More and more household devices are getting connected to the Internet. Currently, around 1 billion PC's and around 2 billion smartphones are connected to the Internet. Apart from PC's and smartphones, other devices such as thermostats, fire extinguishers, smoke detector, traffic lights, garbage cans, parking meters and many more devices are being connected to the Internet. By around 2020, about 50 billion devices are expected to be connected to the Internet.

Smith suggests that the Congress should take appropriate steps to ensure transparency over data collection practices. He also added that companies should give customers control over their data.

"We are in a business that relies on people's trust," says Smith. "We're offering a world where you should feel comfortable about storing (your information) in the cloud...You need to have confidence that this information is still yours."

The U.S. government has been surrounded by debates after former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, leaked classified government data to the media. The leaked information brought to light the agency's mysterious and secretive call recording operations that are said to have affected millions of U.S. citizens. However, the NSA has kept its ground suggesting that the operations are in the interest of national security.

Snowden has fled from the U.S. and is currently under asylum in Russia. In the U.S., Snowden has been charged under espionage for leaking classified data pertaining to government surveillance activities.

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