Microsoft Urges Reform Of U.S. Government’s Surveillance Practices

In a set of comments regarding “big data,” submitted in response to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) request for public input, Microsoft listed a number of changes to how the U.S. government handles surveillance and digital privacy that it thinks would help build “confidence in the cloud.”

Its list, while not surprising in its content, is worth noting as it puts the weight of Microsoft’s stature in the technology industry, a group of companies that have been somewhat muted in their public response to sweeping revelations regarding pervasive government surveillance.

Here’s Microsoft’s list of what it calls a “minimum” set of steps that the government should follow:

  • Update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to address changes in technology.
  • Reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to ensure that its proceedings are the product of the adversarial process that is the hallmark of our judicial system.
  • Commit not to hack data centers or cables.
  • Increase transparency about the amount and types of information collected through intelligence surveillance.
  • End bulk collection of data of telephone records.
  • Work with our international allies to improve the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty process, and use that process to obtain digital evidence stored overseas, rather than using unilateral processes.

Quickly: Reforming the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) would give greater protection to email; adding an adversarial element to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court would give presented cases two sides; not hacking data centers or cables would knock the NSA’s MUSCULAR program offline; ending the bulk collection of telephone records would grant American citizens greater privacy in their communications; and improving the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty would, perhaps, end the current practice of the U.S. government using national warrants to command access to data stored abroad.

It’s a decent list.

Microsoft also called for quick movement on privacy legislation, which is the main point of its set of comments.