Microsoft CEO supports Apple on privacy

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella seems to agree with Apple CEO Tim Cook when it comes to privacy, calling this a “fundamental human right.”

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella seems to agree with Apple CEO Tim Cook when it comes to privacy, calling this a “fundamental human right.”

Microsoft CEO: Privacy a 'human right'

Despite the lack of a successful smartphone franchise, Microsoft is still very much part of today’s industry with a range of services across the mobile ecosystem. That’s probably why Nadella is such an active attendee at Mobile World Congress 2019.

What’s really interesting about what he said during a speech at the show is the extent to which his thinking aligns with what Apple is doing around privacy. For example:

  • Nadella shared a vision of intelligence at the edge, securely and privately accessed through multiple user interfaces, touch, speech, vision and more. Apple’s vision aligns to this.
  • The Microsoft CEO also looked at how artificial intelligence (AI) is being woven into multiple services – this goes way beyond Siri, but Apple’s platforms also support emerging business intelligence systems – look at Salesforce. “AI is being infused into every experience,” Nadella said.
  • Like Cook, Nadella also warned of the unintended consequences of technological advances.
  • Like Apple, Microsoft is working to protect customers against such consequences. We ask “difficult questions like not what computers can do, but what computers should do,” Nadella said.

Microsoft and Apple retain very distinct identities, of course, but that the manufacturers of the world’s two most distributed operating systems agree on the value and necessity of privacy is refreshing.

Towards the end of surveillance capitalism?

“That’s why we believe privacy is a fundamental human right,” the Microsoft boss said. “That’s why we prioritize cybersecurity, not just for the largest of companies, but for small businesses and consumers, who are often the most vulnerable to cyber attacks.”

This isn’t the first time Nadella has said something like this. He made similar statements in 2018 when discussing the EU’s GDPR legislation. 

Apple’s Cook warned European data regulators of the cost and consequence of the erosion of privacy in 2018. When he did, he noted the evolution of an unregulated surveillance economy, warning “this is surveillance.”

Since that speech, Apple has ramped up its offensive against data surveillance companies by progressively eradicating the tools they use to spy on what people and organizations do online, which is why it is deprecating the Do Not Track tech inside of the Safari browser.

Toward a bill of digital rights

Cook has also described what he sees as the four tenets of a new bill of digital rights he believes should become law in the digital age:

Cook has called for legislation to protect four key rights:

  • Personal data collected should be minimized.
  • Users should be able know what data is being collected.
  • They should have the right to access or change that data.
  • The responsibility of companies to keep such data securely should be enshrined in law, and users should have control over what happens to their information.

Nadella's Microsoft seems to be moving in a similar direction as the old guard of more responsible technologists join forces to combat the unintended consequences of tech firms who have moved fast and loose in their treatment and support for user privacy.

Ultimately, it’s all about trust.

Cook has said, “Technology’s potential must be rooted in the faith people have in it.”

Nadella has a similar slant, telling the audience in Barcelona, Spain, that his company is committed to “instilling trust in technology across everything that we do.”

I imagine that any company that develops solutions that do not prioritise trust on either Apple or Microsoft’s platforms must now consider themselves warned.

Change is coming.

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Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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