Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) is taking a firm stand against the United States government in email privacy, Brad Smith, the company’s general counsel, makes clear in an interview with Trish Regan on Bloomberg’s Street Smart.
The interview comes as Smith is preparing to take on the U.S. government in court over the latter’s request to access email information stored in a Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) server in Ireland.
Smith posits a scenario that’s a reverse of the U.S. court decision in April this year telling the company to hand over data it has stored in a server outside of America.
“After all, how would we feel as Americans if we were told, ‘Look, you woke up this morning but the German government can come access your email. They don’t need to notify the U.S. government. They don’t need to respect U.S. law. They don’t need to think about your rights as a journalist under the U.S. constitution. All they think about is what matters in Germany.’? We would be upset too,” he told Regan.
What Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) is saying is that people are entitled to continue to own their emails. This means that even though they are stored in the cloud, agencies should present a valid warrant to access that information.
Smith also points out that protecting the privacy of user data is beneficial for business and the U.S. economy as people would only use technology and therefore help U.S. technology companies grow if they are comfortable and can trust storing their data with these companies.
Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), one of the 10 most profitable companies in the world in 2014, though its general counsel, also noted that one of the points of this battle is whether customers outside the United States can feel comfortable with their data with U.S. companies. He says that with the U.S. government saying that it can access any information even on servers outside of the U.S. without going through the governments of those states where these servers are located, non-U.S. customers would hesitate or even stop dealing with U.S. companies.
Nonetheless, Smith agreed that we all want governments to protect its citizens. However, he stressed that this protection which entails surveillance should be done the right way.
“Of course, we need to keep the public safe. We have to strike the right balance between public safety and personal privacy. […] We need solutions, but we need solutions that will enable governments to work together and not put tech companies in the middle,” Smith said.
Smith said that Microsoft doesn’t even scan emails of customers to target marketing.
Donald Yacktman’s Yacktman Asset Management held about 56.45 million Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) shares by the end of the third quarter. That is second only to Jeffrey Ubben’s ValueAct Capital, the largest institutional investor in the Windows maker, which reported owning about 74.24 million shares in the company by the end of the same period.