Our Takeaways from “Privacy, Surveillance, and Rebuilding #TrustInTech” with Brad Smith & Professor Jonathan Zittrain

| Cathy Wissink


The technology ecosystem is evolving at a remarkable rate, both in terms of how the technology is changing and how individuals are leveraging that technology in their personal and professional lives. With the rapid global advance of innovations like cloud-based services and increasingly powerful mobile devices, governments are grappling with how the legal and regulatory frameworks appropriately address this technical evolution in a timely fashion.

As a result, striking the balance between technology innovation and the legal implications of said innovation is challenging. Nowhere is this more evident in today’s ecosystem than in the juxtaposition of personal privacy and national security in a post-9/11 and post-Snowden world. Our General Counsel, Brad Smith, joined Professor Jonathan Zittrain of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society to discuss these challenges and potential ways forward, in an event entitled: “Privacy, Surveillance, and Rebuilding Trust in Tech.”

It is a complex topic, touching on international law, cultural expectations of privacy, and the distributed nature of cloud-based technology, with many other nuances in the space. At the risk of grossly oversimplifying the discussion, I wanted to call out three thoughts—or rather, questions—I took away from the discussion:

  1. With the globalization and extreme interconnectedness of the internet and cloud-based services comes the need to re-think the concept of legal jurisdiction. It’s easy today for an individual to use a service that may be physically located outside of the country in which they reside. Which nation’s (or jurisdiction’s) law applies to that individual using that service, and who gets to enforce that law?
  2. How does government find a way to deliberatively make decisions regarding technology law, given the rapid rate of innovation change? How do we ensure there is time to be thoughtful and critical about potential changes to law, when technology moves so quickly?
  3. Who needs to be at the table when the intersection of law and technology is discussed? Is it policymakers? The tech industry? How are an individual’s rights represented in this discussion? How does this conversation change when technology spans international borders?

It is a fascinating time to be working at the confluence of technology, law and business, and I’m very proud that Microsoft has decided to take a leadership role in raising these crucial issues for discussion.

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Cathy Wissink

Cathy embraces what others may tend to avoid. Kale? Loves it. Bugs? Enthralled by them. A cross country bike ride? No problem for Cathy. Solving some of society’s most critical issues by working with everyone from tech leaders to politicians to community leaders? Bring it on.