Moving Responsibly to Cloud Computing

There has been much attention focused on the tremendous opportunities presented by cloud computing. The greater efficiency, cost effectiveness, flexibility and choice in services enabled by cloud computing can benefit everyone from consumers to developers to governments in a myriad of ways.

As we embrace such potential, we must also work collectively to ensure that we move responsibly to cloud computing. Last night, as part of The Aspen Institute’s roundtable series on communications, I participated in an interesting discussion with senior leaders from academia, government, private sector and advocacy organizations on how we can responsibly reap the benefits of cloud computing.

Our discussion reinforced that industry alone cannot achieve this goal. There is an important role for government to play to foster the elements of a healthy cloud ecosystem. For example, a critical way to protect privacy would be for Congress to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. This statutory framework for electronic communications privacy was established more than 20 years ago and needs to be updated to be aligned with current technological realities. This is just one item that will need to be considered as we embrace the cloud. There are other new responsibilities that we must work together to address such as strengthening security through enhanced criminal laws and greater transparency from service providers; combating fraud; building user trust through transparency; promoting openness and interoperability, and stimulating innovation through protection of intellectual property.

Issues such as these will not be solved in one night, or in one discussion. Rather, last night’s roundtable is a continuation of the cloud computing conversation Microsoft has been having in communities around the globe in recent weeks, as evidenced by Steve Ballmer’s speech at the University of Washington earlier this month and my address at the Brookings Institution in January. As Steve said, we are “all in” on the cloud, and Microsoft is committed to ensuring there is a robust conversation about embracing this innovation responsibly.

About the Author

General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft

Brad Smith is Microsoft's General Counsel and Executive Vice President of Legal and Corporate Affairs. He leads the company's Department of Legal and Corporate Affairs (LCA), which has approximately 1,100 employees located in 55 countries. Mr. Smith is responsible for the company's legal work, its intellectual property portfolio and patent licensing business as well as its government affairs and philanthropic work. He also serves as Microsoft's corporate secretary and its chief compliance officer. Mr. Smith currently co-chairs the board of directors of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) and is the chair-elect of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity. In Washington state, Mr. Smith has served as chair of the Washington Roundtable, a leading Washington state-based business organization, and he has advanced several statewide education initiatives.