Microsoft Calls for International Rules on Government Data Access Following NSA Scandal

Obama listed several NSA reforms, but there's still more to be done

Microsoft pushes for international convention on government access to data after several programs that the NSA handles were revealed in the past seven months.

According to a blog post signed by Microsoft’s Brad Smith, the company’s general counsel and executive vice president for Legal and Corporate Affairs, they are advocating for international collaboration on government access to data.

“Last week, President Obama spoke about the role of the National Security Agency and announced some important changes to the surveillance practices of the U.S. government. We appreciate the steps the President announced, which represent positive progress on key issues including privacy protections for non-U.S. citizens,” Smith wrote.

However, he points out, there is more work to be done to define some of the details and additional steps that are still required.

On Friday, Obama announced several changes to the way the NSA would operate from now on. However, the much-awaited reforms didn’t really rise up to the expectations. The biggest changes were that the NSA would no longer have direct access to US phone call metadata and would require a court order to get any of the information. Also, the agency would no longer spy on the United States’ close friends and allies.

It should be mentioned, however, that one of the biggest areas that were not touched by Obama during his speech was the NSA’s efforts to collect Internet metadata, to breach data center security for Internet companies and to weaken encryption, things that Microsoft should be concerned about.

However, Microsoft wants to have a broader international discussion. “We need an international legal framework – an international convention – to create surveillance and data-access rules across borders,” Smith wrote.

“Such an approach would enhance transparency and reduce the legal uncertainty that currently risks slowing new cloud-based technology services internationally. Clearer rules for access to data internationally would help open borders and enable companies to host services and data in one country for citizens in another,” Smith added.

Updated January 22, 2014: A quote on the NSA reforms was misattributed to Microsoft and has been removed.

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