Declaring privacy as a human right, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has asserted that the tech giant would ensure that the user is “always in control” of their data and its use. Nadella’s comments assumes significance amid the storm over Cambridge Analytica’s links with the 2016 Trump campaign and the way the British political consulting firm illegally harvested data on millions of Facebook users. In his keynote address to the annual Microsoft Build 2018 conference here attended by thousands of software developers, including several from India, Nadella said computing is now getting embedded in every person, place and thing.
“The world is becoming a computer. Computing is getting embedded in every person, place and thing” and all are being transformed, the 50-year-old Indian-origin CEO said yesterday. At the same time, Nadella called for greater integration of ethical values and principles that protects individuals’ privacy, human values and democracy. He said one has to develop a set of principles that “guide the choices we make, because the choices we make is what’s going to define the future”.
At Microsoft, Nadella said, “We are focused on three core pillars, first privacy. Privacy is a human right. We at Microsoft have enshrined a set of principles that ensure that we preserve this human right, protect this human right. “We ensure that when we use data, it is to benefit the user. We ensure that the user is always in control of their data and its use,” Nadella said. “If you think about the sheer computing power that is getting distributed, and how that computing power is being used to collect data, fuse sensor data, reason over that data, create the rich experiences throughout our life, it’s pretty stunning,” the Microsoft CEO said.
“That’s the opportunity that we have. It’s in some sense endless,” he said. “We have the responsibility to ensure that these technologies are empowering everyone. These technologies are creating equitable growth by ensuring that every industry is able to grow and create employment,” he said. “But we also have a responsibility as a tech industry to build trust in technology,” Nadella said while highlighting the need to think about the power of technology and our ability to completely control it, especially its impact even on future generations.
He said the General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union is a sound, good regulation. “We have been working hard to ensure compliance with it by end of this month when it becomes in effect. We have hundreds of engineers across the company building the compliance infrastructure. “In fact, we’re going to help our customers who use our products and services get compliant,” he said. But we know that this is just the starting point. It’s just like security, we’re never going to be done. We are going to continuously commit ourselves to work to preserve privacy.
On preserving cyber security, he asserted that the industry needs to act with collective responsibility across the tech sector to help keep the world safe. “We recently formed a programme to protect our democracy wherein we are going to work with the campaigns, the civic society, and other constituents, so that we can secure our political process, our democratic process,” Nadella said.
Microsoft also led a consortium of tech companies to ensure citizens across the world are protected from cyber-attacks. “It’s digital Geneva Convention of our times,” he said. On ethical Artificial Intelligence, he said, “We need to ask ourselves, what computers can do, but what computers should.”