Microsoft on the Issues http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues News and perspectives on legal, public policy and citizenship topics Fri, 24 Jun 2016 20:30:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.2 Cybersecurity norms for nation-states and the global ICT industry http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/06/23/cybersecurity-norms-nation-states-global-ict-industry/ Thu, 23 Jun 2016 10:00:24 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=39133 Today, I am pleased to share a new white paper about cybersecurity norms for nation-states and the global information and communications technology (ICT) industry, “From Articulation to Implementation: Enabling Progress on Cybersecurity Norms.” This publication is a reflection of our ongoing efforts to advance trust in the global ICT ecosystem through development of “rules of the road” for nation-states engaged in cyber operations, as well as industry actors impacted by Read more »

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Today, I am pleased to share a new white paper about cybersecurity norms for nation-states and the global information and communications technology (ICT) industry, “From Articulation to Implementation: Enabling Progress on Cybersecurity Norms.” This publication is a reflection of our ongoing efforts to advance trust in the global ICT ecosystem through development of “rules of the road” for nation-states engaged in cyber operations, as well as industry actors impacted by these activities. Our goal is to contribute to the development of frameworks and practices that protect people and companies from the effects of state-sponsored cyber operations.

Global ICT companies acutely understand that technology products and online services, including the underlying internet infrastructure, are often the battlefield for cyber conflicts and conduit for other attacks launched by governments and their proxies. (Learn more about our views on government activity online as a cyber threat category.) Because of this phenomena, Microsoft believes that cybersecurity norms are not just for governments, and the global ICT industry must also undertake commitments that enhance trust in ICT systems. This perspective is reinforced by the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts, an intergovernmental task force charged with developing cybersecurity norms, which called upon the private sector and civil society to contribute to the development of cybersecurity norms.

In our new paper, we put forward a three-part organizing framework for the current cybersecurity norms dialogue: offensive norms, defensive norms and industry norms. Offensive norms are the province of nation-states, as these norms concern self-restraint in the conduct of cyber operations. Defensive norms are relevant to both governmental and non-governmental actors because these norms address defensive measures against nation-state activities in cyberspace. Industry norms are also important to both governments and the private sector, but are focused on addressing industry’s role in mitigating the risks facing technology users from nation-state activity in cyberspace.

We believe that norms should advance common objectives where possible, regardless of whether the norms are focused on offense, defense or industry. The chart below provides a side-by-side view of Microsoft’s proposed norms for nation-states, with our corresponding proposals for industry norms. While there is a strong complementary structure for nation-state norms and industry norms, they vary in two important instances: nation-states possess the ability to create mass effects through offensive cyber activities; and the global ICT industry has the ability to patch all customers, even during conflicts between and among governments. (Learn more about our proposed norms for nation-states.)

cybersecurity

We recognize that cybersecurity norms are unlikely to be effective as a policy tool without further development of cyber attack attribution processes. Accordingly, our paper outlines the current challenges surrounding attribution of cyber attacks, and we propose a public-private forum to address attribution of severe cyber attacks that would involve a globally-diverse group of technical experts, subject to peer review. Indeed, the development of cybersecurity norms will require new forms of cooperation and new mechanisms to surmount challenges that are unique to cyberspace. New models for public-private partnership – on a global scale – will be essential.

As governments commit increasing resources into offensive cyber capabilities, the global ICT industry must strengthen its resolve, and take active steps to prevent user exploitation through adherence to industry norms. We must continue to raise the bar in our defensive capabilities to deter nation-states from targeting technology users. We hope these proposed norms set government and industry on a path for broader discussions to enhance trust between governments, enterprises and technology users.

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Technology delivers hope to refugees http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/06/20/technology-delivers-hope-to-refugees/ Mon, 20 Jun 2016 13:00:04 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=39031 Atallah Taba watched his wife die after a bomb ripped apart their home outside of Damascus, Syria. Instantly, the 74-year-old lost everything he worked for his whole life. Still grieving for the loss of his partner and the mother of their six children, Atallah made the painful decision to flee his home, clinging onto a few precious family photos and his smartphone. He traveled on foot for weeks, across hundreds Read more »

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World Refugee Day 2016, citizenship

Atallah Taba, right, at a refugee camp. Photo courtesy of NetHope.

Atallah Taba watched his wife die after a bomb ripped apart their home outside of Damascus, Syria. Instantly, the 74-year-old lost everything he worked for his whole life. Still grieving for the loss of his partner and the mother of their six children, Atallah made the painful decision to flee his home, clinging onto a few precious family photos and his smartphone. He traveled on foot for weeks, across hundreds of miles, towards Turkey before he was captured by the Turkish army. Exhausted, Taba told them, “Kill me, but don’t send me back to Syria.”

Taba’s story is heartbreaking and it’s even more devastating to think that there are millions of men, women and children who have endured similar hardships. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, worldwide there are 65 million people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes, of whom about one in three are refugees escaping from conflict and persecution. The scale and complexity of the worldwide refugee crisis, including 4.8 million Syrian refugees, is overwhelming.

Today on World Refugee Day, we recognize the strength, bravery and resilience of refugees. And we share our gratitude for those who, amidst all the despair, are working so hard to bring hope to these people. Taba eventually made it safely to the Cherso refugee camp in Greece. He and many others are being assisted by organizations like our nonprofit partners that are dedicated to helping refugees survive, recover and rebuild their lives.

I met with our nonprofit partners and U.N. representatives earlier this year when I traveled to Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp, where thousands of U.N. tents form a makeshift desert city of over 75,000 people. I saw how, every day, our nonprofit partners overcome incalculable challenges to deliver shelter, food, medical aid and other critical services to people who have had their homes, jobs, loved ones and dreams ripped away from them. We had many conversations about how technology has essentially become a new form of aid as it enables communication between refugees and their families, coordination within and between aid agencies, access to information about migration routes, and the rebuilding of refugees’ lives.

I heard many stories about the profound impact that technology has made on refugees and the agencies supporting them. When our partner NetHope installed Wi-Fi at the Cherso camp, Taba was finally able to contact his daughter after two long years of separation. Before that, he had no way to reach her to tell her he was alive and safe. They now communicate every week. For Taba, technology delivers more than just communication; it delivers relief, a sense of control over his own destiny, and a powerful glimmer of hope. In many ways, technology is a lifeline for refugees like Taba.

“Increasingly, we’re seeing that communications capabilities are absolutely essential to affected populations, on par with food, water and shelter,” says Lauren Woodman, NetHope chief executive officer. Being able to connect with family, friends and humanitarian agencies and governments that are helping refugees flee for safety and settlement, is an essential component of solutions that help communities help themselves.”

World Refugee Day 2016, citizenship

Access to education is one of the top concerns for refugees living in settlements. Photo copyright Dominik Hetzer.

NetHope and its consortium of 49 nonprofits improve access to technology, including connectivity for refugees. We commend their impact and are optimistic about what more can be done by leveraging the benefits of technology. For instance, with access to the internet and cloud technology, pilot programs to deliver much-needed education to refugee children are already underway. Our partner, The Norwegian Refugee Council, has been able to teach computer skills to adults, so that they have a better chance of getting a job in the future. With improved access to technology, more refugees in Greece can apply for resettlement, which is only possible online. These are some of our partner organizations who are leveraging technology to help refugees regain hope for the future:

  • Mercy Corps is addressing the needs of hundreds of thousands of refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq through the provision of food, shelter, and hygiene and sanitation services, as well as investing in the well-being and learning opportunities of youth, who are the key to future peace, growth and stability in the region.
  • International Rescue Committee provides critical aid and legal counseling, helping more than 3 million Syrian refugees recover and rebuild their lives. IRC’s chief information officer, Madeleine Fackler, shared that part of her work is “implementing solutions that facilitate communication and coordination throughout our organization – which has been critical.”
  • Save the Children provides access to clean water, medical care, clothes and shelter, and trauma counseling, and has impacted more than 3.8 million displaced children in the Middle East.
  • The Norwegian Refugee Council distributes food aid, water and sanitation infrastructure, education, and shelter, and has served over half a million refugees.

At Microsoft, we know that technology can play a big role in empowering people and organizations to achieve more – especially for underserved and vulnerable populations such as refugees. We also understand that technology alone is not enough. To truly empower every person on the planet, and to deliver on the promise of a public cloud for public good, we must partner with great nonprofit organizations such as NetHope and its member organizations. And today we celebrate our partners and all those who are working every day to support and empower refugees around the world. To learn more about our partner NetHope and their member organizations, please visit: nethope.org.

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Microsoft interns in British Columbia get a lesson in changing the world http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/06/17/microsoft-interns-british-columbia-get-lesson-changing-world/ Fri, 17 Jun 2016 16:30:47 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=39052 In March, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella stood on a stage at the Build 2016 conference, in front of an audience of hundreds – with many more watching online – and introduced Seeing AI, a research project that aims to help the visually impaired or blind better navigate the world around them. The Seeing AI research prototype uses computer vision, image and speech recognition, natural language processing and machine learning to Read more »

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Microsoft Canada Excellence Centre, Vancover, British Columbia

Elias Haroun was one of the college students who were Microsoft interns in Vancouver, British Columbia, and worked on Seeing AI, a research project that aims to help the visually impaired or blind better navigate the world around them.

In March, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella stood on a stage at the Build 2016 conference, in front of an audience of hundreds – with many more watching online – and introduced Seeing AI, a research project that aims to help the visually impaired or blind better navigate the world around them. The Seeing AI research prototype uses computer vision, image and speech recognition, natural language processing and machine learning to attempt to describe a person’s surroundings, read text, answer questions, and even identify emotions on people’s faces.

The announcement was a great moment for the teams of Microsoft developers and others who helped create the prototype. Among them was a group you might not expect: College students who served as Microsoft interns in Vancouver, British Columbia. These bright young people who attend school in Canada played a surprising role in the development of this innovative idea as part of their Microsoft experience.

“It felt great,” says Concordia University senior Elias Haroun, about seeing Nadella on stage introducing Seeing AI. “I had become so attached to this project, and worked hard to help bring it to life. Seeing the Microsoft CEO talk about it was incredible.”

Technology professionals who work at Microsoft’s British Columbia offices, which significantly expanded today with the opening of the Microsoft Canada Excellence Centre (MCEC), are especially proud of The Garage Internship Program, which includes 50 students from Canadian universities each year. Students are paid for their time, spending 16 weeks building apps for Microsoft’s newest and most exciting platforms and devices.

Seeing AI was initially created at Microsoft One Week, a three-day worldwide employee hackathon, in which thousands of employees work on projects that are meaningful to them. It was later brought to the MCEC, where interns were given the chance to help build out the prototype. That included helping servers communicate with Microsoft Cognitive Services, a critical piece of the research project that, for example, reads words aloud into an earpiece and also explains images or surroundings.

Shweta Sharma, a senior at McMaster University in Ontario, won’t soon forget her internship experience at Microsoft. “I was inspired by Saqib Shaikh, the Microsoft software developer, blind from an early age, who was one of our sponsors for Seeing AI,” she says. “Having an immense amount of responsibility and ownership over our project is not something you normally experience in an internship, and made the experience especially valuable.”

Also valuable, according to University of British Columbia junior Irene Chen, was the chance to collaborate with Microsoft employees in distant corners of the world.

“We worked with teams in Japan, Serbia and London, among others,” she says. Irene was responsible for the language understanding aspects of Seeing AI. “I watched it grow from having zero vocabulary to being able to comprehend simple questions,” she explains.

One of the reasons Microsoft expanded in British Columbia is that Vancouver – and Canada overall – is a hotbed for technological innovation.

“Vancouver is becoming a global center for technology, and we’re committed to helping grow Canada’s innovation economy,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith.

These bright, young students are perhaps the best example of the entrepreneurial, creative spirit of the region. De Martin, the MCEC director, is excited about what the future holds. “We look forward to seeing what the current group of interns can do, and to contributing to their development, and to the betterment of Canada as a whole,” he says.

For more information about Microsoft’s Garage Intern program in Vancouver, and to apply, visit https://mcec.microsoft.ca/internships/.

Learn more about the MCEC: http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/microsoft-opens-state-of-the-art-technology-centre-in-vancouver-british-columbia-583428321.html

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Code.org + TEALS = More AP computer science in high schools http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/05/23/code-org-teals-ap-computer-science-high-schools/ Mon, 23 May 2016 21:33:22 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=38962 Recently, Code.org and the TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) program, agreed to launch a joint pilot program to do even more to support computer science education in U.S. high schools. Computer science (CS) is hugely important to the future of the country, yet currently, only one in four high schools in the U.S. offer computer science courses to their students. Microsoft Philanthropies has been seeding the investment in Read more »

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Recently, Code.org and the TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) program, agreed to launch a joint pilot program to do even more to support computer science education in U.S. high schools. Computer science (CS) is hugely important to the future of the country, yet currently, only one in four high schools in the U.S. offer computer science courses to their students. Microsoft Philanthropies has been seeding the investment in CS education for years, but in order get to a point where computer science classes are offered at all schools, we’ve decided to join up together like Voltron for AP CS Principles. This is why we’re working with Code.org and gathering volunteers from across the technology industry to solve this national crisis together along with many, many others.

TEALS is a grassroots program, supported by Microsoft Philanthropies, that pairs computer science professionals from 200-plus companies across the country with classroom educators to team-teach CS in U.S. high schools. Over two years, the classroom teacher gradually takes over the responsibilities of teaching the course on their own. The team-teaching and volunteer system of TEALS creates a strong ripple effect: it empowers teachers who can multiply the impact by providing computer science education to hundreds more students over the years. I put my background as a software engineer and former high school CS teacher together when I started this program in 2009 in my spare time, and TEALS was embraced and supported by Microsoft Philanthropies in 2011. Since the program started, more than 17,000 high school students have learned from over 1,500 dedicated TEALS volunteers and classroom teachers.

Code.org is a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science and increasing participation by women and underrepresented students of diverse backgrounds.  Their vision is that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science.  Among other efforts, Code.org offers CS curriculum and professional development courses to teachers so that they will be sufficiently trained and able to teach CS to their students.

Both TEALS and Code.org are committed organizations dedicated to expanding access to computer science.  We are bringing the best of our both worlds – teacher development and our real-world experts who co-teach CS with the classroom teacher – to shorten the teacher ramp-up time and expand our impact more quickly. We hope that math works out to be 1+1=3 in this case. Code.org focuses on teacher training over the summer, TEALS gives the trained teachers hands on help during the school year. In the first year, we plan to pilot an effort to reach schools where TEALS will provide CS experts who will volunteer in the classroom, supporting and providing expertise to the teacher and Code.org will provide curriculum and professional skills training for the teachers.

TEALS and Code.org have always shared a common vision for bringing CS education to schools across the country ever since Hadi Partovi, Code.org founder, showed me the rough cut of the original video on his phone. This new pilot program, one more collaboration in our longstanding relationship, will combine the best of both our program and secret sauce to achieve even more. TEALS’ success is owed to our incredible volunteers who give up their early mornings to volunteer with us. Their CS expertise is a huge asset to the teachers and to the students. We need computer scientists and software engineers to join this movement in giving back and to help make a difference in the lives of teachers and CS students.

TEALS is recruiting volunteers for this program now.  If you are interested in volunteering, visit https://www.tealsk12.org/ for more information.

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Microsoft’s approach to terrorist content online http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/05/20/microsofts-approach-terrorist-content-online/ Fri, 20 May 2016 16:00:24 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=38929 Terrorist attacks around the world have sparked intense discussion and debate about how best to address content on the Internet that is used to promote terrorist violence or recruit for terrorist groups. We want to use this time to take new steps and outline how we are addressing this important issue. It’s inevitable – and understandable – that digital technology has become a focus of demands for new measures to Read more »

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Terrorist attacks around the world have sparked intense discussion and debate about how best to address content on the Internet that is used to promote terrorist violence or recruit for terrorist groups. We want to use this time to take new steps and outline how we are addressing this important issue. It’s inevitable – and understandable – that digital technology has become a focus of demands for new measures to combat terrorism. The Internet has become the primary medium for sharing ideas and communicating with one another, and the events of the past few months are a strong reminder that the Internet can be used for the worst reasons imaginable.

We believe it’s important that we ground our approach to this critical issue in central principles and values. We have a responsibility to run our various Internet services so that they are a tool to empower people, not to contribute, however indirectly, to terrible acts. We also have a responsibility to run our services in a way that respects timeless values such as privacy, freedom of expression and the right to access information. We’ve therefore carefully considered how to address terrorist content that may appear on our services without sacrificing the fundamental rights we all hold dear. Although Microsoft does not run any of the leading social networks or video-sharing sites, from time to time, terrorist content may be posted to or shared on our Microsoft-hosted consumer services. In light of this, we want to be transparent about our approach to combatting terrorist content.

We’re therefore addressing the issue in two ways, as described below. First we’re taking a number of measures to tackle this content when it appears on our services. Second, we’re investing in partnerships with others who are working to tackle the broader issue.

Microsoft’s services

Specifically, we are:

  • Removing terrorist content: We are amending our terms of use – which already prohibit hate speech and advocacy of violence against others – to specifically prohibit the posting of terrorist content on our hosted consumer services.
  • Defining terrorist content: There is no universally accepted definition of terrorist content. For purposes of our services, we will consider terrorist content to be material posted by or in support of organizations included on the Consolidated United Nations Security Council Sanctions List that depicts graphic violence, encourages violent action, endorses a terrorist organization or its acts, or encourages people to join such groups. The U.N. Sanctions List includes a list of groups that the U.N. Security Council considers to be terrorist organizations.
  • Observing notice-and-takedown: We will continue our “notice-and-takedown” process for removal of prohibited, including terrorist, content. When terrorist content on our hosted consumer services is brought to our attention via our online reporting tool, we will remove it. All reporting of terrorist content – from governments, concerned citizens or other groups – on any Microsoft service should be reported to us via this form.
  • Promoting free expression on Bing: Our Bing search engine strives to be an unbiased information and action tool, presenting links to all relevant information available on the Internet. (Like other search engines, Bing generally does not host content itself.) In the context of a tool for accessing information, we believe that societies, acting through their governments, ought to draw the line between free speech and limitations relating to particular types of content. Therefore, we will remove links to terrorist-related content from Bing only when that takedown is required of search providers under local law. (We are already operating this way in France, for example, where we are routinely provided by the police authority with links to terrorist-related content that is unlawful there.) We do believe, however, that we can help users make informed choices when they may be exposed to information that may cause them significant harm, including terrorist content. Therefore, we are exploring new partnerships with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to display public service announcements with links to positive messaging and alternative narratives for some search queries for terrorist material. We’re hopeful that these upcoming collaborations will help protect troubled individuals from heading down a path toward violence.

Partnering with others

While the steps we take on our own services are important, we are also thinking creatively about other ways to tackle this issue and investing in some new approaches and new partnerships in an effort to meet the challenges presented by terrorists’ use of the Internet:

  • Leveraging new technologies: One challenge is that once a technology firm removes terrorist content, it is often quickly posted again. It is a game of “whack-a-mole,” but with serious consequences. We want to see if technology that has worked well in other circumstances can be used to good effect here. That’s why we are providing funding and technical support to Professor Hany Farid of Dartmouth College to develop a technology to help stakeholders identify copies of patently terrorist content. The goal is to help curb the spread of known terrorist material with a technology that can accurately and proactively scan and flag public content that contains known terrorist images, video and audio.
  • Investing in public-private partnerships: We know that tackling these difficult issues will require new and innovative partnerships bringing together experts and leaders from different backgrounds and perspectives. To help with this, we’re a founding member and a financial sponsor of a new, public-private partnership to develop or enhance activities to help combat terrorist abuse of Internet platforms. Launched in April in Geneva, the initiative brings together the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, civil society, academics, and government and industry representatives, to address terrorist content.
  • Providing additional information and resources: We appreciate that we can also work to enhance education and understanding, especially among young people. To help, we’re also adding new resources to the online safety program pages of our YouthSpark Hub, an important component of Microsoft’s YouthSpark initiative, which provides access to educational and economic information and opportunities for young people around the world. YouthSpark Hub provides resources for safer online socializing and tools to identify the risks and responsibilities of being good digital citizens. The new resources include material designed to help young people distinguish factual and credible content from misinformation and hate speech as well as tools for how to report and counter negative content. Experts say youth with more fully developed analytical and critical thinking skills are less likely to start down questionable paths, including those toward radicalization.

Terrorism is one of the truly urgent issues of our time. We are committed to doing our part to help address the use of technology to promote it or to recruit to its causes. As we look at additional measures we can take, our actions will always be consistent with the rule of law and with our belief in our users’ rights to privacy, freedom of expression and access to information. We will continue to work closely and transparently with a wide range of organizations to build on and strengthen these efforts, and we look forward to joining additional initiatives that involve organizations from both the public and private sectors in the coming months.

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Greener datacenters for a brighter future: Microsoft’s commitment to renewable energy http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/05/19/greener-datacenters-brighter-future-microsofts-commitment-renewable-energy/ Thu, 19 May 2016 15:00:30 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=38875 As the world increasingly races to a future based on cloud computing, a host of new and important public issues are emerging. One of these issues involves the energy and sustainability practices of the datacenters that power the cloud. Over the past year we’ve spent considerable time focusing on our work in this area at Microsoft, and I wanted to share today where we’re heading. When it comes to sustainability, Read more »

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As the world increasingly races to a future based on cloud computing, a host of new and important public issues are emerging. One of these issues involves the energy and sustainability practices of the datacenters that power the cloud. Over the past year we’ve spent considerable time focusing on our work in this area at Microsoft, and I wanted to share today where we’re heading.

When it comes to sustainability, we’ve made important progress as a company since the start of this decade, but even more important work lies ahead. Across the tech sector we need to recognize that datacenters will rank by the middle of the next decade among the large users of electrical power on the planet. We need to keep working on a sustained basis to build and operate greener datacenters that will serve the world well.

For Microsoft, this means moving beyond datacenters that are already 100 percent carbon neutral to also having those datacenters rely on a larger percentage of wind, solar and hydropower electricity over time. Today roughly 44 percent of the electricity used by our datacenters comes from these sources. Our goal is to pass the 50 percent milestone by the end of 2018, top 60 percent early in the next decade, and then to keep improving from there.

Especially given the magnitude of datacenter expansion that will continue throughout this time period, this is not a small goal. It requires that we understand where we’ve come from over the past few years and take a principled approach to our work in the future. We need to translate these principles into clear and concrete goals that we can use to hold ourselves accountable in a responsible way. And it will require work with many other important stakeholders and institutions, from environmental groups to utilities to governments themselves.

Important work to date

Our focus on sustainability is not new. We’ve been tracking and reducing emissions since 2007, and we’ve been operating our datacenters and the rest of the company at 100 percent carbon neutrality since 2012. We’ve achieved this progress by driving efficiencies, charging our business units a fee on carbon, and investing in sustainable energy projects and technologies. When we’re not able to eliminate our energy use or directly power our operations with green energy, we purchase renewable energy certificates to reduce carbon emissions. When we include the use of these certificates, 100 percent of our consumption has been powered by renewable energy since 2014.

Microsoft was in fact one of the first large enterprises to implement a global internal carbon fee model, charging each business unit a fee based on the carbon emissions of its business operations. This provides a powerful incentive to find carbon-saving alternatives and invest in carbon-reducing innovations. Thanks in part to this program, Microsoft was ranked by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as the second largest user of green power in the United States. Earlier this year we were honored to receive an EPA Climate Leadership Award and to be recognized by the United Nations and World Economic Forum for our carbon fee model.

As part of our commitment to carbon neutrality, we also offset the carbon impact of our air travel. We do this by investing in community projects that focus on issues such as clean cookstoves, habitat protection and restoration, and solar power and lighting – impacting more than 7 million people worldwide.

As a result of this work, we’ve reduced carbon emissions by 9.5 million metric tons, purchased 14 billion kilowatt hours of green energy, and cut energy consumption by 10 percent at our 125-building main campus in Redmond, Washington. All of this represents important progress and creates a strong foundation on which to build.

A principled approach to the future

While we’re proud of our progress, we readily recognize that even bigger steps will be needed in the future. In part this is because of the unique and increasingly important role that datacenters will play in the decades ahead.

Over the past 250 years a few select inventions have served as the fundamental catalysts for human progress. In the First Industrial Revolution that began in the latter 1700’s, steam and the steam engine played this role. A century later, the Second Industrial Revolution was based on electricity and electrical power plants, and then gasoline and the combustion engine. The Third Industrial Revolution relied on the microprocessor. The Fourth Industrial Revolution we’re now entering will feature major technology advances in physical materials, biological processes and digital technologies. But the fundamental cornerstones for all of these advances will be data – the electricity of our age – and the datacenters that will make this massive use of data possible.

Datacenters have become the engine of transformation. The good news is that public cloud datacenters operated by companies like Microsoft are more energy efficient than the private server facilities run by individual companies or governments. This is natural, given the degree to which this has become a core competency, and it reflects our focus on both world-leading R&D and large capital investments to drive datacenter energy efficiency.

But there is no room for complacency. The largest tech companies today may each consume as much electrical power as a small American state. There may come a point in just a few decades when we each may consume as much power as a mid-sized nation. This creates an obvious responsibility that we need to take seriously.

To help us live up to this responsibility, we have established three principles to guide our environmental sustainability work:

Transparency. We’re committed to the type of transparency that will hold ourselves accountable and share our track record with the public. We’ll report annually our total energy consumption and consumption across regions, the mix of sources for the power that we use, the impact of our internal carbon fee model and the investments we make. We also will be transparent about where we are investing in renewable energy certificates or international equivalents, and our investments in carbon offset projects around the world.

Help to accelerate the transition to a clean energy infrastructure. We’re committed to using more clean energy every year. We will be mindful about siting datacenters and other facilities where renewable energy sources are readily available or can be made available during ramp-up or operational phases. Wherever we operate, we will work to bring new renewable energy sources online either through investments in new projects, by engaging on enabling policy changes that will help accelerate availability of more clean energy, and by working with utilities to increase the availability of renewable energy on the grid.

Investments in research. Finally, we’re committed to cutting-edge research and development investments to advance our energy responsibilities. We will continue, in particular, to focus on R&D that will lead to further improvements in the efficiency of computing infrastructure, datacenters, servers and software performance. We will also work to advance sustainability through the products, platforms, and capabilities we use to run our business and offer our customers and partners, and we will invest in new technologies that have the capability to create more clean energy at scale.

Practical energy commitments

We recognize the importance of translating these principles into action. We’ve concluded that this requires that we make to ourselves and to the public five clear and concrete commitments:

1.    Improving our energy mix. First, we need to focus on our datacenters’ sourcing of electricity. Today, although 100 percent of the electricity used by our datacenters is renewable based on a mixture of direct projects and renewable energy certificates (or the equivalent), only about 44 percent of that power is generated by wind, solar and hydropower sources. Some of that electricity comes from projects where Microsoft directly procures renewable energy, such as the Keechi wind farm in Texas and the Pilot Hill wind farm in Illinois, while the rest is supplied by wind, solar and hydropower sources on the grid. But this means that we have a large opportunity to address the remaining 56 percent either with our own direct purchases or by encouraging the addition of new wind, solar, or hydropower additions to the grid.

We recognize that both the volume and percent of energy from these renewable sources needs to be higher. As we move forward, we will continue to purchase renewable energy certificates to ensure we reduce our carbon emissions to zero. But more important, we are setting goals to grow the percent of wind, solar, and hydropower energy we purchase directly and through the grid to 50 percent by 2018, 60 percent early in the next decade, and to an ongoing and higher percentage in future years beyond that. As we make progress, we’ll report on it and share how we’re thinking about our next milestone on this path.

2.    Maintaining carbon neutrality. Through investments in energy efficiency, direct purchases of renewable energy, renewable energy certificates or the equivalent, and carbon offsets, we will continue to be 100 percent carbon neutral in our operations and business air travel.

3.    Retiring all green attributes from projects in which we invest. Any time we purchase green energy, we will not sell the renewable energy certificates or any other green “attributes” for others to claim.

4.    Investing in new energy technologies. We will continue to invest in new energy technology, such as our biogas and fuel cell work, that have the potential to accelerate the availability of new types of energy and drive new efficiencies.

5.    Supporting public policies that help enable new renewable energy sources. Finally, we will support public policies that accelerate the availability of additional renewable energy in markets where we operate. We believe this is an imperative not only for our ability to meet our own commitments, but for the energy improvements that are needed by the tech sector more broadly.

Toward a broader conversation about a sustainable future

The more we’ve focused on these issues, the more apparent it has become that the world needs an ever-broadening conversation to make sustained progress. Much has been accomplished in this regard in recent years, including a new global commitment to address these issues. But we’ll all need to work together to translate this into the types of practical steps that are needed.

We definitely learned a lot earlier this year about the types of practical steps that can make a difference. Microsoft joined an innovative public-private partnership with Dominion Power and the State of Virginia to do just that. Dominion will build a 20-megawatt solar energy plant to bring new, additional clean energy to the grid in Virginia, and Microsoft helped fund it and will claim and retire the green attributes. Partnering with utilities and governments in these types of ways can impact the grid beyond our own operational needs and can help accelerate the transition to a cleaner energy economy.

The progress that’s needed will not come easily. The issues are complex and the steps that are needed are varied. Real progress will require that groups across the non-governmental, business and governmental communities find new ways to work together.

At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. In a world of more than 7 billion people, this plainly comes with a responsibility to advance sustainability in our operations, including datacenters, to deliver innovative solutions that will help address the environmental challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

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Washington state math wiz takes first prize in national MathCounts competition http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/05/13/washington-state-math-wiz-takes-first-prize-national-mathcounts-competition/ Fri, 13 May 2016 15:04:57 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=38848 This week, Edward Wan, a seventh grader from Lakeside Middle School in Seattle, Washington, became the first-place champion of the 2016 Raytheon MathCounts National Competition. Approximately 140,000 students in the United States participate annually in school MathCounts competitions, leading up to this big event. It was a particularly proud moment for those of us at Microsoft. For the past 10 years, we’ve hosted on our campus the MathCounts Lake Washington Read more »

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This week, Edward Wan, a seventh grader from Lakeside Middle School in Seattle, Washington, became the first-place champion of the 2016 Raytheon MathCounts National Competition. Approximately 140,000 students in the United States participate annually in school MathCounts competitions, leading up to this big event.

EdwardIt was a particularly proud moment for those of us at Microsoft. For the past 10 years, we’ve hosted on our campus the MathCounts Lake Washington Regional and the Washington State Championship competitions.  For one Saturday in February and for another in March, we open up our conference center to hundreds of Mathletes, their families and volunteers for food, fun, prizes, inspiration and general competition event support.  Our goal is to support MathCounts’ mission to engage middle-school students of all ability and interest levels in fun and challenging math programs, and to expand their academic and professional opportunities along the way. That’s one of the many reasons we’re excited not only to see Edward’s success, but also two middle school students from Odle Middle School, Alex Wei and George Lan, finish in the top 28. And on top of that, Washington state placed third in the team competition.

As reported in a news release about the event, Edward won the final round by answering the question: “What is the remainder when 999,999,999 is divided by 32?” He gave the correct answer, 31, in 6.95 seconds. As national champion, according to the release, Edward is the recipient of the $20,000 Donald G. Weinert College Scholarship and a trip to U.S. Space Camp.

It took a while for Edward’s win to sink in. “I didn’t really believe it at first,” he told us shortly after his victory. “I didn’t expect it. I felt pretty good that all the work I did paid off.”

Photo: David Russell, Disney/ABC Home Entertainment and TV Distribution

Photo: David Russell, Disney/ABC Home Entertainment and TV Distribution

While Edward was a bit anxious about the competition – as would any middle-school student – he found his next task even more daunting: a live appearance on LIVE! with Kelly & Michael. But Edward did a terrific job on the Disney-ABC Television program, and easily bested the two hosts in an entertaining math-off. We’re grateful that the hosts and producers of this program took the time to bring a message about the rewards of learning math to a national audience.

One thing that’s particularly inspiring about Edward’s big win was that he didn’t qualify for the national competition last year. There’s a great lesson here about perseverance. All kids can succeed in math, and build self-confidence in the process. But they should remember that getting problems wrong is part of the journey. Edward is a great reminder that learning math is a process of trial, error, and, of course, repetition. In fact, when Edward is asked about the difference between his performance this year, versus last year, his simple answer is, “Practice makes perfect.”

“Washington state has competed well at this MathCounts event for several years, but a third-place finish, out of 56 competing teams, really helps shine a light on the talent we’re nurturing in Washington state,” says Pam Maloney, a chapter coordinator for MathCounts. “MathCounts inspires curiosity, builds confidence and cultivates talent.  We try to plant seeds about future career opportunities possible through math. As a long-time volunteer, I’m heartened by the talent and commitment these young students have.”

Congratulations, Edward, and to all of the students who participated this year. All of us at Microsoft are proud of you!  Keep up the great work! And if you would like to learn more about MathCounts, please visit MathCounts.org.

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Microsoft applauds signing of Defend Trade Secrets Act into law http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/05/11/microsoft-applauds-signing-defend-trade-secrets-act-law/ Wed, 11 May 2016 19:50:41 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=38827 Today, President Obama signed The Defend Trade Secrets Act (S. 1890) into law.  The DTSA will provide a much needed federal standard and remedy for trade secret misappropriation.  The DTSA passed Congress with nearly unanimous support, thanks to the strong bipartisan efforts of bill sponsors and Senate and House Judiciary Committee leaders, and Administration support.  Microsoft applauds this landmark effort to protect America’s innovation leadership and competitiveness in global markets.

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Today, President Obama signed The Defend Trade Secrets Act (S. 1890) into law.  The DTSA will provide a much needed federal standard and remedy for trade secret misappropriation.  The DTSA passed Congress with nearly unanimous support, thanks to the strong bipartisan efforts of bill sponsors and Senate and House Judiciary Committee leaders, and Administration support.  Microsoft applauds this landmark effort to protect America’s innovation leadership and competitiveness in global markets.

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Family Online Safety Institute joins fight against child sexual abuse http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/05/11/family-online-safety-institute-joins-fight-child-sexual-abuse/ Wed, 11 May 2016 15:47:00 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=38806 The Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) is expanding its focus and has relaunched its Global Resource and Information Directory, or GRID, to explicitly include combatting child sexual exploitation and abuse. Microsoft has supported FOSI and GRID since it was first launched in 2010. We are also actively engaged in the WePROTECT Global Alliance to End Child Sexual Exploitation Online, started three years ago and still led by the U.K. government. Read more »

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The Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) is expanding its focus and has relaunched its Global Resource and Information Directory, or GRID, to explicitly include combatting child sexual exploitation and abuse.

Microsoft has supported FOSI and GRID since it was first launched in 2010. We are also actively engaged in the WePROTECT Global Alliance to End Child Sexual Exploitation Online, started three years ago and still led by the U.K. government.

At an event in London earlier this week, FOSI, a long-standing promoter of family and child safety on the Internet, announced it was broadening GRID’s scope to include projects and programs aimed at preventing, prohibiting and prosecuting Internet crimes against children. GRID has always captured and catalogued the challenges and responses to online safety issues around the world, but the new GRID will make combatting child sexual exploitation a priority.

GRID’s rebuild was sponsored by the UNICEF Global Fund to End Violence Against Children. Over the next four years, the fund will receive a total of £50M for programs designed to combat the online availability of child sexual abuse imagery. All of this work is part of the WePROTECT Global Alliance.

“From policymakers looking to enact online abuse legislation to NGOs and academics seeking information on the most recent trends, GRID serves as a central resource of research, data and other best practices to keep children safe online around the globe,” said Stephen Balkam, FOSI’s founder and CEO. “GRID’s global, multi-stakeholder approach is a crucial tool in the fight to end online child abuse worldwide.”

It was only natural for Microsoft to participate and help to sponsor the re-launch. Indeed, all of industry has a unique role to play in helping to stop the spread of child sexual abuse material online. We create and invest in innovative and disruptive technologies; we establish and manage self-governance programs; we educate and inform the global public about online risks, and we partner with others for increased impact and results. This expansion of GRID is but the latest example of the WePROTECT multi-stakeholder model at work.

WePROTECT engages governments, law enforcement agencies, the technology industry and civil society to grow an online culture dedicated to preventing and mitigating risks to children; developing technological tools to detect and remove illegal child sexual abuse imagery; and promoting best practices. Following the most recent WePROTECT Global Summit in Abu Dhabi, 63 countries have signed on to a statement of action to help curtail the spread of this material online. Dozens of companies and NGOs have also signed statements of action, pledging support and initiatives from their sectors.

Karen Bradley, U.K. Minister for Preventing Abuse, Exploitation and Crime, presided over the FOSI GRID event, noting the dissemination of child sexual abuse material online is one of the most challenging issues we face as a global society. “This government is at the forefront of the global fight to keep children safe and we are proud to support this tool to share expertise from around the world. It is imperative … we remain one step ahead of the perpetrators to protect children no matter where they live in the world.”

To learn more about Microsoft’s work in fighting online child sexual exploitation and abuse, download our Building Global Trust Online booklet for Online Safety, and visit the online safety program pages of the YouthSpark Hub, where we regularly add new resources on various topics. You can also “like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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Microsoft’s support for the 2016 Republican and Democratic National Conventions http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/04/29/microsofts-support-2016-republican-democratic-national-conventions/ Fri, 29 Apr 2016 19:00:03 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=38767 Technology is a powerful tool that empowers voters and dramatically improves the democratic process. It gives voters access to information to make informed decisions and helps ensure election results are reported accurately, efficiently and securely. In recent weeks, we have been asked about our plans for the 2016 Republican and Democratic National Conventions.  Since we began working with convention committees in 2000, the company has based our actions on three Read more »

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Technology is a powerful tool that empowers voters and dramatically improves the democratic process. It gives voters access to information to make informed decisions and helps ensure election results are reported accurately, efficiently and securely.

In recent weeks, we have been asked about our plans for the 2016 Republican and Democratic National Conventions.  Since we began working with convention committees in 2000, the company has based our actions on three principles. First, we act in a bipartisan manner and provide similar levels of support to both conventions.  Second, we make a special effort, as do many companies in our industry, to provide the conventions with technology tools to help enable this part of the American democratic process to operate efficiently and accurately. And third, we do not endorse either political party or its nominee. We’ve been committed to all three of these principles through four presidential elections, and this year will be no exception.

A year ago, we started identifying the places where Microsoft technology could help this important part of the democratic process operate smoothly.  Based on our conversations with the Republican National Convention’s host committee and committee on arrangements, we decided last fall to provide a variety of Microsoft technology products and services instead of making a cash donation.  For the Democratic National Convention, we’re providing access to similar Microsoft technology as well as some sponsorship of host committee activities. The Microsoft technology for both conventions includes Office 365, Azure, Surface and other products.

In recent weeks we’ve engaged in conversation with groups that have asked us about our plans for the conventions this July. We’ve been happy to answer their questions and listen to their feedback. Even as we’ve done so, we’ve remained steadfast and comfortable with the decisions that we previously made. We continue to believe that the principles that have guided us for over 15 years remain sound today. In particular, we believe that technology from Microsoft and other companies provides an important tool that helps the democratic process work better.

So as we’ve explained to others, we’re not changing our planned activities for the conventions in 2016. We appreciate that this year’s conventions may have some more dramatic moments than in some prior years. This is all the more reason, in our view, to ensure that they benefit from technology tools that are used for a range of important activities, from helping to record accurate vote counts to sharing information quickly and accurately with delegates and the public.

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