Microsoft partners with the University of Washington to create the Tech Policy Lab

One of the exciting aspects of life in the tech sector is the pace of innovation and speed of change.  But the rapid changes can present challenges for policymakers. What, for example, are the policy implications of “big data” and a cloud that transfers data across national and international borders? What are the privacy implications of powerful wearable computers that record audio and video? The University of Washington’s new Tech Policy Lab is a unique interdisciplinary lab designed to help examine these and other questions.  Truly understanding these issues, and shaping effective ideas and policies, requires experts in range of diverse disciplines to work together, and the UW’s pioneering approach does just that. 

Yesterday, I joined University of Washington President Michael Young and Peter Lee, who leads Microsoft Research, to announce a founding gift of $1.7 million from Microsoft for the new Lab.  The Lab brings together experts from the School of Law, Information School and Computer Science and Engineering departments to advise lawmakers on issues such as cyber security, consumer privacy and online censorship. The brilliance of this Lab – perhaps the first of its kind in the world – lies in the capacity of its scholars and students to help improve technology policy by examining issues from a multidisciplinary perspective that formally incorporates different departments and schools from across the university campus. 

Our investment will help strengthen the UW’s position as a leader in helping to guide policymakers grappling with emerging technologies. For years we have partnered with the University, supporting programs such as the eScience Institute. Since 2000, Microsoft has donated millions to its Computer Science and Engineering department, supporting programs that strengthen the UW as a leader in guiding the next generation of thought leaders and innovators. These programs help attract top thinkers on issues such as “big data” to our state, and help position both the UW and our state as thought leaders on these important technology issues.

Ryan Calo, assistant professor of law, is the Tech Policy Lab’s first director. Rotating through the lab’s leadership will be professors Tadayoshi Kohno, from Computer Science and Engineering, and Batya Friedman, from the Information School, all of whom now serve as the lab’s associate directors. These three researchers, often featured in PBS, NPR, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, have contributed greatly to the UW community. We look forward to their latest collaborations and recommendations – which you can follow on the Tech Policy Lab website. Our long-term support for the UW is one example of our broader commitment to fostering academic research and debate on cutting edge issues.  Over nearly 10 years, in dozens of leading institutions around the world, we’ve provided the resources to enable hundreds of talented academics to pursue research on some of the most challenging and important issues facing policymakers.

We hope the community will continue to benefit from the insights and ideas of these thought leaders.

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.