Saturday marked the end of a busy week for Microsoft President Brad Smith, who concluded his week in Europe in Brussels, after visiting Germany, Denmark, Poland and the UK.
Throughout the week, Brad reinforced Microsoft’s position on trust and security, following his previous call for a Digital Geneva Convention, with the aim of governing states’ behaviour in the digital age and protecting civilians from nation state cyberattacks.
Engaging with businesses, academia, governments and media in each country, Brad highlighted the positive business and societal impact of the current wave of technological innovation, while acknowledging the need for collaboration to make sure the benefits are broadly shared – with Microsoft’s commitment to privacy, security and building trust in technology, taking centre stage.
Brad’s engagement on Saturday was to give a live-streamed keynote address at The German Marshall Fund’s Brussels Forum.
On the day the European Union celebrated its 60th anniversary, Brad spoke of the need for a Digital Geneva Convention, outlining the dangers associated with the ‘cyberspace battlefield’, and how technology companies like Microsoft are on the front lines to help fight against nation state attacks.
He went on to reiterate how Microsoft has made it clear that it will not aid any government or organisation in attacking any customers in any country, and that the company will aid and protect customers regardless of their nationality:
“Only if we can bring governments together to put in cyberspace the kinds of rules that have existed for every other form of warfare, will we do what it takes.”
“We won’t create a perfect world – there is no such thing on this planet – but that is the only way that we will fundamentally make the progress we need to make to ensure that security, privacy and safety truly flourish in this new digital world.”
Earlier in the week, Brad delivered a keynote address at Princeton University’s prestigious Fung Forum in Berlin.
Addressing the conference theme of, “Can Liberty Survive the Digital Age”, Brad highlighted the fact that liberty depends on privacy, making the case that privacy depends both on transparency of government access to private information, and on the ability to keep private information secure.
Brad argued that without transparency and security there can be no privacy, and without privacy there can be no liberty. He also talked about the steps Microsoft was talking in each of these areas including the opening of new Microsoft datacentres in the UK and Germany – the latter of which has spearheaded data privacy development with a first-of-a-kind model which ensures that data never leaves the control of a Germany-based data trustee.
He also highlighted the company’s privacy principles, which are grounded in the understanding that data Microsoft manages on behalf of customers remains their data, just as the money they deposit in a bank remains theirs.
Microsoft’s significant investment in advanced security technologies was also highlighted, as were additional details on his earlier call for a Digital Geneva Convention.
While in Germany, Brad also participating in a fireside chat at CeBit Global Conferences in Hannover on Monday, during which he talked about the importance of transparency and letting customers know exactly how their data is used.
He went on to then outline the three tenets of Microsoft’s Cloud for Global Good policy recommendations – trust, inclusion, and responsibility – and discussed why each of these pillars is vital to ensuring that the whole world can safely and fairly benefit from the power of cloud technology.
Following his two-day stay in Germany, Brad continued his travels to Copenhagen in Denmark, where he delivered a keynote address – “Harnessing the power of the Cloud” – at a British Chamber of Commerce event, also attended by media.
Brad outlined the importance of free data flow as well as strict data privacy – both facets which are instrumental in Microsoft’s Cloud for Global Good policy recommendations, as well as supporting the company’s strong belief that data should be kept private and secure at all times.
This is a foundational belief demonstrated clearly by Microsoft’s previous challenge to the US government, which saw the company win the right to not provide customer emails located in an Irish datacentre in response to a US government warrant.
On Thursday, Brad was in Warsaw. While he was there he met with law firms who are helping their clients to move to the cloud and unlock the huge benefits that cloud computing offers. Attendees at the meeting talked about the potential for the cloud to transform healthcare in Poland, enhance the delivery of government services to citizens and help Polish businesses grow.
Brad also met with security leaders from large organizations to talk about the importance of cybersecurity and Microsoft’s comprehensive approach that includes not just product innovation but also legal protections, and significant – and unique – investments such as the Cyber Defense Operations Center, and the Digital Crimes Unit in Paris.