Microsoft’s Top Lawyer Becomes a Civil Rights Crusader

from MIT Technology Review

When Apple CEO Tim Cook refused to help the FBI get into a mass murderer’s iPhone last winter, he was hailed for his boldness in fighting the government on a matter of principle. In fact, Cook was borrowing from the playbook of a top executive at Apple’s dowdier rival Microsoft—a genial, sandy-haired man named Brad Smith.

Smith has taken the government to court four times in the past three years, each time accusing it of breaching the Constitution in its efforts to get its hands on Microsoft customers’ data. He believes computers and the Internet have weakened vital checks on government surveillance that have typically helped to assure personal privacy. Now Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, says he is waging a legal war on the government in an attempt to restore those checks. “We shouldn’t depart from the historic balance,” Smith says, speaking in his bland corner office on Microsoft’s quiet campus in Redmond, Washington.

Smith’s cases affect anyone who stores data in the cloud, from large corporations to the millions of individuals using Skype and Web mail. The smartphones, browsers, and dating apps we have so enthusiastically embraced generate piles of data that can be reviewed by investigators. But restraints on the investigators’ power were mostly devised in a world where data was stored on paper. The Fourth Amendment and the laws and court rulings built around it force cops to get a warrant from a judge if they want to tap your phone, read your postal mail, or inspect papers in your home, for example. But while the police need a warrant to search your smartphone, they don’t need one to see many digital traces about your life, such as logs of your past movements from a cellular network. Unless the Supreme Court or Congress decide otherwise, our cloud data doesn’t have the same protections given to physical papers.

More here.

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21 Responses to Microsoft’s Top Lawyer Becomes a Civil Rights Crusader

  1. Daniel Cooper September 16, 2016 at 11:11 am #

    Microsoft is having a similar with the United States government about the right to privacy. This not about the idea of just a phone it is about the privacy of the cloud. Microsoft is trying to fight the government that the cloud should have the same privacy right as the government. The Supreme Court and Congress does not have a rule whether the government can or cannot follow your digital footprint. This can cause a huge issue in the right to privacy for many Americans. The government according the Fourth Amendment can come into your home and search your items with a search warrant. Microsoft is asking the question whether the government can do the same with the digital property. “Neil Richards, a law professor at Washington University. Protest movements can’t form, he says, unless people with unconventional ideas can communicate and organize without the government looking over their shoulder.” This quote really stands out. If the government is able to monitor ever call, text, email, or anything else digit without a warrant how will the people respond to the fact that they will either be broken apart by the government or the people will be too scared to fight social issues.
    The issue now is that Microsoft needs to keep fighting this case because the issue lies with the people and the government. Since the government has unlimited amount of resources and power while the company has somewhat of a limit Microsoft needs to win this case. I know if the government is able to view online in the cloud that people will be angry. Microsoft will lose all of its customers in matter of hours. The creditability of the company goes down. Will a bail out happen? This issues is damaging the company of Microsoft either way. Why would a company fight against the government that protects them, but also why would a company go against the people that give them money for the products that they want? Microsoft is stuck between a rock and hard place. It is easier to side with the government which will show that you do not care about people’s privacy. The other side is fighting for the people which makes you the enemy of the government.
    This man Smith has nothing but runs with the government. He is generally used to defend himself. I would rather have a company fight the rights for the customers. It is one thing to say something. This person will bring up an idea and not do anything about it. Ray Lewis, ex-football player for the Baltimore Ravens, said it best about the protest of the national anthem by Colin Kaepernick; he said that knee for the nation anthem is one thing, but to go out there and change is another. If you believe in something just giving money and speaking about it does do enough. He was being interview on the show The Herd on Fox Sports 1 by Colin Cowherd. He asked Kaepernick if he is changing the problem. That he needs to go out change it. Microsoft is fighting for the rights for its people.

  2. Joe Murdaco September 16, 2016 at 11:10 pm #

    This article is dealing with the law in a business environment where technology is at the forefront. Privacy laws of the past have dealt with letters and simple forms of data that do not involve complex computer skills to find. The Police and federal agents have been granted warrants for property in the past for plenty of written documents but not for things online. Microsoft is sewing the government for illegally obtaining customer information without notifying them of their mission. Also, the police requested e-mails from a person under investigation but the documents were in the data center in Ireland. Microsoft was in a lawsuit over whether the Electronic Communications Privacy Act was restricted to the US. They lost the case because the court declared that since the warrant was served in the U.S it was valid. The trial went through two different appeals until Microsoft finally won. The important parts of this case have to deal with the privacy of companies and their customers and also the restrictions on certain acts. There are many issues involved with this case that need to be addressed.
    Initially, a big part of the problem that the courts are faced with today have to deal with technology because it is a new concept that the law has not caught up with. The article says that, “We are in a new age of technology that requires a new understanding of our fundamental rights.” The original bill of rights did not include anything that had to deal with technology or computers because they were not invented yet. This is something new that the courts have to deal with and become up to date with so companies like Microsoft do not have these problems in the near future.
    The issue with the warrant to get the emails from the suspect is that the data is stored in Ireland but the warrant is issued in the U.S. The problem with this incident, and others alike, is that it interferes with international law. It is hard to rule on a case that involves another country because the judge has to take into account the privacy laws of both countries. I would somehow reconcile the problem by having all of the information in one country to avoid such problems. This case would set precedent in other cases that involve international laws concerning privacy laws and technology.
    Being a college student that uses the internet and Microsoft word excessively, I would have a big problem if I found out that the government was accessing my information without my knowledge. There is nothing that I would be hiding in my computer but I still would not like to see my information out in the open without my approval. I do not think the “third-party doctrine” is fair to customers like myself. No information should be accessed by the government without approval of the owner of the data. Civil Rights cases are always bringing a lot of attention to themselves with the help of the media. If enough people follow this case closely and understand how it may impact their lives, Microsoft might have enough support to make a change. I think there needs to be an amendment where technology is the basis. Privacy laws, usage and other laws pertaining the internet must be in the documents. The courts and laws have to advance to meet up with today’s society.

  3. Brandon Rojan September 19, 2016 at 10:37 am #

    In today’s technological environment, the concept of privacy becomes a more complicated topic to define, it seems. This article references the tragedy of a mass murder that took place last winter and I believe that these tragedies should be stopped before they happen. I don’t think however that we as a society should breach our constitutional right to privacy. Brad Smith states that “We shouldn’t depart from the historic balance”, and I agree wholeheartedly. The government needs to consider the privacy of its people and it needs to grant the same protections to our digital data as we have for our physical papers.
    Companies are now starting to see how important consumer trust can be and many seem to be fighting the government to retain the privacy of consumer data. However in this fight for privacy we have a very long way to go towards true progress and the road to get there won’t be so simple.

  4. Margaret Klich September 19, 2016 at 8:21 pm #

    The cloud and big data have become the topic of what some would say the biggest worries in the world. A recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek (September 19th 2016) had an article about the scares of Americans. To list off the top 10: Corruption, Cyberterrorism, personal data tracking, terrorist attacks, personal data tracking (government), bioware, identity theft, economic collapse, running out of money, and credit card fraud. All of these worries shed light on the real world problems we face these days with the new digital era.
    One things that needs to be clarified is “Brad Smith” was not acting on behalf of Microsoft. In the huge scandal that Edward Snowden released about the NSA was that Microsoft gave the government a backdoor to collect video calls from Skype and Microsoft Outlook ( Although Microsoft may be claiming that they took the government to court for what they deemed as unlawful, they actually worked with the NSA and made sure when they launched their new platform/updates, the NSA could intercept the conversations.
    On the legal perspective, I understand that the government is trying to protect us and keep us safe from the ‘bad people’ out there, but many times they investigate these individuals and don’t actually stop them from committing bad crimes. The fourth amendment has many implications and when the constitution was created, there were no laws to ensure privacy rules for citizens. Many citizens don’t think about privacy; for instance, all the information individuals give over to download an app on their phones (location, contacts, photos, ability to turn on your camera and microphone without permission). I have actually talked to many people about these issues and their response is “I have nothing to hide”. It’s not about having something to hide, as much as the problem is giving information to people who shouldn’t have it.
    No business or government should be able to intercept our personal conversations, hack into our phones, go through our mail (whether it’s physical or digital,) or another violation of their need to get a warrant before they can invade our personal space. I do agree with the statement that these companies are so concerned about protecting its public image than actually protecting the public. Privacy rights, big data, the cloud, and Intellectual Property rights is going to be the biggest concerns from the beginning of this digital era.

  5. Mike Serritella September 21, 2016 at 1:57 pm #

    Security on a mobile platform is something that I have been very passionate about since the FBI asked apple to brute force their way into an iPhone. While I understand why the FBI asked apple to do this the FBI could have used this info to peek into every iPhone in the world. The government has no right to peek into people’s private life without a warrant, which is required to enter into a phone. Another great point that is brought up is that the government does not need a warrant to go through cloud storage data and data that is not stored on the device itself. to me that is a breach of privacy as well because that is YOUR data being tapped into and it should be protected just like how the device is protected and should need a warrant to access. It is your data and should be protected and require a warrant to get into the fact that it does not seems to be that the government is just forcing its way into the data that we have and breaching the constitution. I think its honestly great that Microsoft is standing up to the government because they have no business in our phones and should not be concerned with that every day Americans do with their life and who they text. It’s one thing for the government to give the phone to apple and ask them to unlock it and get what they need but it’s something else entirely when the government demands for the to give them their encryption. This is really unacceptable as the government must know their boundaries and realize when they are in breach of privacy which they were last year when they asked apple for information.
    In today’s world everything we do is on our smart phone, our credit card numbers, bank accounts, addresses, it’s all on there. One of my biggest things last year when this case was in court was what if the wrong people got their hands on this? The government cannot guarantee that their method will be safe from other people who could potentially use it to hurt others. I really do applaud that Microsoft and as well as other companies are refusing to comply with warrants as they should not have to breach their user’s privacy in order to find out what one person is doing. Google just launched its new chat platform called Allo, while it offers some amazing features it has one fatal downfall. It stores all messages that are sent on the app and the users information and If the police request permission to access these chats google will give it to them. This falls under the cloud storage rule as they do not need a warrant to access them. This is truly unacceptable, you don’t see apple giving the police permission to access imessage which is the essentially the same thing built into the iPhone messaging app. i really thing that the government needs to relook the constitution and all the laws enacted and see what they can do or they develop new laws and regulate what the government has access to because going into people’s phones without their permission is unacceptable. The fact that some people are okay with this really does bother me because they are basically saying that they are okay with the government going into their phones and accessing all their information. Companies like google, Microsoft, and apple need to stand up and refuse to breach the security of their operating systems and refuse to give the government access to their customer’s smart phones. New information has since arisen from the case suggesting that the government could have accessed the information on the iphone through another method which indicates that they lied and had some alternative motive. It is really up to people to believe what they want but the government must be put in check.

  6. kaitlyn healy September 22, 2016 at 4:11 pm #

    Tom Simonite’s article about Microsoft’s executive Brad Smith gave a close look at the constitutional rights that have been violated since the widespread use of cloud technology. Basically Smith is saying that anyone who stores data in the cloud and uses apps,browsers,and smart phones are targeted because cloud protection doesn’t have the same protection from the forth amendment as physical paper. Smith is being labeled as a “civil rights activist “for trying to protect our forth amendment rights that offer protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. Smith states in the article that he feels that computers and the internet have weakened our vital checks on government surveillance. After reading the article twice I had to take a third scan to read between the lines and I think that this issue is going to prove that there are two sides to every story and at what price do we pay to protect our privacy.

    Interestingly enough the event that prompted this level of concern for the Microsoft executive was the Edward Snowden ordeal. When Snowden was able to steal four laptops and prove to the world that the United States and United Kingdom were collecting data from private networks without company’s knowledge. It’s hard to believe that Microsoft did not know of their vulnerability before this was brought to light. It did cause problems for Microsoft but the bad publicity caused Smith to go on the defense. His defense has become his legacy. Smith has taken the government to court numerous times not only for privacy protection for customers and cooperation’s but for Microsoft ‘s ability to inform consumers that agencies are requesting data. Microsoft claims that they have “gag orders” that permit them from sharing such information with customers.

    Smith in December 2013 refused to comply with a warrant demanding emails for a narcotics investigation. The information was stored in a data center in Ireland and after appealing Microsoft won and did not have to provide the information. So with this case let’s break it down to “the other side of the story”. Let’s look at the case that involved Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook. He refused to get the FBI into the IPhone of a mass murderer last year. A murderer who was later found to be a terrorist. This was a case that divided a country when it came to cyber surveillance. What if the cell phone could have led to more information that could help our country defend itself against terrorism? Does a person who commits a heinous crime lose their rights? Does agreeing to this search open up situations that create a “Big Brother” society? These are all questions that have to be balanced carefully because in 2016 we, as a society, must look at the world as a new place that needs to keep the safety of our society as a top priority.

    The internet companies and large tech companies do need to keep our information private and need to provide a level of safety from cyber thieves, but I ask myself what would I be willing to share if it would help trace someone who is dangerous to society? I would hope Microsoft is doing all this leg work in the courts to provide its customers with the privacy and online safety they are looking for. I am skeptical because I think they are doing it for their own financial advantage by being able to show the world that the government is requesting data and using this as an advertisement for foreign countries to trust the company.

    The article does go on to say that there is a third party doctrine that does allow certain data to be collected without a warrant, an example that was cited was cell phone location logs. It is believed that the government has taken advantage of this doctrine and is taking data beyond what the limit should be. So it is believed that the power goes towards the government and officials. The other side of this is, what about missing persons? Can data such as cell phone logs and apps such as “Find My Phone” be tools for law enforcement to help solve cases? So who is protected? This is my question because as a law abiding citizen my data is clean, honest and not incriminating and if need be used for an investigation I’m not opposed. As I said earlier there is the other side and I do understand the right to privacy, especially for companies and foreign companies that do not want the United States to use the internet as a spying agent.

    I think common sense should prevail here. I was watching a documentary about 9-11 recently and a comment was made that stuck with me. I was too young to remember much but the feeling I got from watching that show was shear terror. The comment was from a news reporter who said ” we might be giving up some of our liberties to defend the freedom that we have.” I believe in the forth amendment but if information can save lives I think it has to be shared.

  7. Dean Falcone September 23, 2016 at 12:18 pm #

    As many have already been aware of, I am not a fan of the cloud form of digital storage. I do use Dropbox as a form of storage, but do not solely rely on it. I may be old fashion, but I do not trust technology and I will not let my whole life be saved somewhere out of my control. After listening to all the problems associated with large digital storage platforms, I will continue stick to my methods. The government seems to be finding new ways to gain the information they want all the time. Microsoft might be the most known company not being in favor of the government’s means, but they are not alone. While other corporations are speaking out, I think Microsoft is handling the public domain the best.
    It is a huge problem that the government is creeping their way into our private lives more and more. This article deals with the problem of the U.S. government gaining information within our personal data storage. There is legislation against obtaining paper documents, but nothing for digital based ones. Whatever is used to protect people’s digital information is not being utilized properly if all of these reports are coming out against it. As a Microsoft office school, we should be glad that Microsoft isn’t compromising our rights for a dollar sign. Microsoft is fighting for the government and others to stay out of our clouds without proper reasoning. They are requiring warrants and other means to be able to see what we have stored. I do not want my information that easy to obtain and I’m sure I am not alone. I also believe that if you are doing nothing wrong, it should not matter. The school already keeps a watchful eye over us anyway. If we stay out of trouble and there is no need to worry about the government knowing your business too.
    Hopefully Microsoft’s fight in online surveillance results in stricter regulations on the government. While the Constitution was drawn up intending for separation of powers and checks and balances, they do not seem to be carried out perfectly today. There should be other government officials stepping in to make sure our rights are not infringed. The Constitution was perfectly applicable up to a certain moment in our nation’s history. I would say that moment was when technology began to govern most of our lives. The Founding Fathers could not predict the phone capabilities in 2016 and neither did their Constitution. It may only be a couple of hundreds of years old, but it is supposed to be interpreted as the times change. Within it, the government was drawn out regulations about privacy and surveillance. Those should not be disregarded just because the technology we have was not specifically mentioned. For terrorist and other threatening purposes, I believe the government should be able to get into our storage. If there were only petty criminal activity, there should be no reason to breach our rights.
    When I first started reading this, I could not help but think Brad Smith might be doing this for the wrong reasons. Of course no one wants to see the government deceiving someone else, but maybe he is just doing this for the business. Reading further, the article even says that critics think Microsoft is worried more about their image than the public they service. No matter what the actual motives are behind Smith, he is increasing Microsoft’s public image. They might lose all the lawsuits and fights against the Department of Justice or U.S. government, but they did increase the publicity the company got. Some people might start using Microsoft products solely because they believe them to be an ethical business. Smith is using people’s weaknesses as ways to bring in more business. Consumers want to know that what they store will be safe and if not, it will be fought for to ensure safety. Microsoft will hopefully continue to speak out against government injustices. As long as I still am required to use Microsoft Office, I do not want to have uncertainty about them.

  8. Justin Scherzo September 23, 2016 at 2:40 pm #

    My grandparents do not understand the concept of the internet. When I tell them that you can find anything you want on the internet, they look at me funny. It has revolutionized the way we go about daily life, but with all good things, there is a bad side. This article talks about the privacy issue that the company, Microsoft, is fighting against the government. While they are not alone, they are the most vocal of the companies. Several months ago Apple refused to decode an IPhone of a mass murderer, for the government, because they felt that it was against their privacy policy.
    One of Microsoft’s top executives, Brad Smith, is claiming that the government is breaching the Constitution’s powers by trying to obtain personal information of Microsoft customers. Much of this information is stored in “the cloud”. It is a very important part of technology today because it allows users to access information in different locations on different devices. It has caused a tricky situation in court because Microsoft stores their cloud information in Ireland. A federal appeals court during the summer ruled that the United States does not have the authority to pull information from a company that is stored in another country, under the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The cloud is equivalent to stored data on a device but Smith argues that the cloud does not have the same protections that are given to physical papers.
    Brad Smith is very adamant about the problem of security breaching by the government. He has taken the government to court several times because he feels that our rights under the Fourteenth Amendment are not being protected sufficiently. He has a very good point because the government has stolen information from the public before on several occasions. For example the United States of America and the United Kingdom had a project called Muscular, which stole data from Google and Yahoo with them even knowing. Once again the government is working sneakily behind the backs of the people that they are supposed to protect.
    Although many are concerned with the safety of their personal information some say that Microsoft is more concerned with their public image than protecting the public. Since Smith’s feelings are so strong critics feel that this might be part of the problem. His routine of defending the public, may be a cover for the company’s image rather than genuine concern for the rights of the public. It seems like a lot of hassle to take the government to court four times to preserve the company’s public image, though.
    In my opinion, there should be a major concern of the people for their privacy. There needs to be a reasonable means established that allow the government to demand personal information. They cannot simply bully around companies for information. If there is a serious threat to the security of people, I think that the government has reason to assert their power and attain information valuable to a problem. In the case of Apple, when they would not unlock an IPhone of a mass murderer, I think that Apple was wrong. When do we take into account the moral dilemma that this person killed several other human beings? For small problems there is no need to even have this argument but in this case we are talking about murder. In order to prevent future problems, there needs to be laws established to let the people of the United States know when they could possibly have their information confiscated by the government. We are not talking about this enough because a lot of people do not care, but it is time to start caring.

  9. Robby Hazel September 23, 2016 at 4:50 pm #

    In this new and advanced age of technology, it is becoming increasingly easier for governments, and other entities, to monitor the everyday actions of citizens around the globe. I’m not talking about drones patrolling the skies and watching people as they go along with their day, although the utilization of that level of surveillance might not be too far down the road. The main questionable intentions that the article addressed was the government’s attempt to acquire people’s personal information from technology companies. Storage of sensitive information in “the cloud” has become a normalcy for people all around the globe due to its convenience, but it also comes along with the possibility that one’s own privacy can easily be imposed upon. As easy as it is for one to access their personal information from any device, it would be equally accessible to governments if technology companies allowed for it to be. Thankfully, executives like Timothy Cook and Brad Smith, from Apple and Microsoft respectively, are major opponents of the government’s unlawful grab for more power, and have thus far prevented it by even taking them to court in several situations. As long as large technology firms who offer cloud services continue to block these attempts, people’s personal privacy should be safe from unlawful government surveillance.

    I would like to believe that the protection provided by tech companies is out of the goodness of their executive’s hearts, however anyone who is business-minded knows that this most certainly is not the case. The real reason for this most likely lies within the age-old saying: Money talks. It can easily be assumed that corporations who openly oppose government imposition on privacy are simply using these tactics as a back-handed marketing technique to draw users into paying for their cloud services. If a customer feels as though their personal information will be protected, they will be far more likely to purchase products and services from companies that pose themselves as protectors of the people. While this may be a win-win situation for tech companies and consumers alike, a simple change of leadership within a technology firm may compromise the protections that consumers are currently afforded. Simply put, if a new executive feels as though cutting a deal with a government entity will be more profitable for their firm, or if they feel a conviction to further aid a government’s attempt to monitor and prevent criminal activity, then current policy would certainly be subjected to change. The fragility of one’s privacy that comes along with storing information in cloud technology is something I, and the many others like me, are not comfortable taking on, which is why I will continue to choose not utilize it.

    The article suggests that new laws be put in place of more outdated laws, which do not necessarily apply to situations outside of data recorded on paper. No laws are currently in existence that impede a law enforcement agent’s ability to use smartphone data to track passed movements, crack into web browser history, and view one’s personal emails. This is obviously very problematic, not because governments are possibly able to prevent crimes before they occur, but because past occurrences proved their inability to not abuse such powers. I am obviously not opposed to a government being able to provide more protection to their citizens, however, I am strongly against them infringing on basic Constitutional rights in the process. The government simply cannot be trusted with these powers, and as long as technology companies continue to protect their customers as lawmakers crank out new protective legislation, Constitutional rights will continue to be upheld.

  10. Vannesa Martinez September 23, 2016 at 6:32 pm #

    This article touches on a popular debate that affects everyone in the technology age as the extent and limits that the government should have over our information on the worldwide web. Our system of government is set up to provide to its people, as stated in the United State Constitution, checks and balances for each three branches that govern the citizens of the United States. Neither branch is to carry more power than the other, and each are necessary to help limit or extend certain power to maintain the function of the country. However, in the case of the United States legislative and judicial systems, there is not enough enforcement in regards to protecting the information of any individual online.

    Brad Smith, a top executive for Microsoft, is fighting for the people to protect our personal privacy, something that the government has failed to fight or focus on for its people. Although this is served to be an informative article discussing the background of Smith fighting for people’s right of internet privacy, it sheds light on an important topic that affects all of us. Not only on a personal level but for business as well as they lose their right of privacy staying connected to the cloud. Smith gained a major win for businesses as a federal appeals court ruled in Microsoft’s favor in which it rejected the Department of Justice’s claim that United States warrants served to a company gives it the permission to extract data from that company that may lie in other countries across the world. This win, major for the business industry, also secures their limit as to how far the judicial system can extend their powers to obtain private information from the cloud. In addition, this win further solidifies Microsoft with its customers that it is willing to go to any extent necessary to secure the protection of their customer’s private information.

    Our world is quickly advancing into the technological era, too quick for the government of court system to try to grasp. Our Constitution should be updated to include the rights we have as individual for our personal information to stay protected and private on the cloud as well. That investigators should not be allowed to retrieve our information whenever they want to, there needs to be a secure method or a line of process that they must follow in order to obtain such information needed on the cloud. The Constitution needs to be updated to stay in time with our ever-changing world. It is still set to the time when our forefathers established this piece of legislation as it was in accordance to their time. If they were alive today, they would have it written out to include and reference the cloud and internet age that we all participate in today. Corporations like Google cannot stay in the background for long and not stand up for what is right for their company and for their customers. Everyone has the right to privacy, which includes virtual privacy. It is a part of one our basic human rights given to us and cannot be infringed upon just when it serves lawmakers or the court system convenience.

  11. Robert Andrew Luba September 23, 2016 at 7:42 pm #

    The man of which this article concerns, Brad Smith, is nothing less than a man defending his entitled right to privacy granted by the Constitution of the United States of America. When technology moves forward, it is the responsibility of the people to understand the consequences of it.
    The argument that was being fought for here was that if Apple did relinquish the ability to access any iPhone at any time, it would breach the security of all of its users. It is sufficing to say that apple products would face a severe drop in consumption had this happened, but the reasons for this denial were not purely monetary. Apple surely knew that if they disclosed this information and allowed the government to be able to look into all of the iPhones, they would be able to make the same case for all other smart phones in all other cases. This would have effectively eliminated the sense of privacy one may have when on smart phones.
    The end goal that men like smith appear to want to reach is setting limitations on the extent that the government can peer into the online activity of the citizenry. The less strife that large businesses like Microsoft and apple put up, the easier it would be for the government to establish deep footholds into online translucency. The brush that Apple had with the government is a good step in the direction of leniency of law towards the people. Smith paints the disagreements between tech companies and the legal system as a sort of tug-of-war. Whenever they attempt to over step what one of these tech companies sees as an infringement of privacy, the tech companies lash back with a suit to put a damper on the government’s attempt at increasing the periphery of their boundaries.
    Protesters to government regulation of the internet agree that if they do not take action towards warding off the regulations, when it comes time that broad recognition catches up with technology, there will be no room to express rights because they all will have been stripped when the public was unaware that they were being taken from them. The issue is that this problem is not being brought to the surface to be decided by the public as to what rights citizens have over their online stored data. In this limbo between inception of the internet and the regulation of what can and can’t be done on it, there is much to be gained or lost by the lawful citizen.
    The only thing that one can do now is attempt to spread word of the need for action. The lack of attention to politics and government works could be very detrimental for a nation that can now lose so much through ignorance. If the protection of security and privacy is not supported, things could take a turn for the Orwellian. The nation could lose its sense of security. This could no doubt put a dent in the nation wide appeal to big government, or worse, it may also not. A fear I’m sure infects Smith’s mind is that the nation will trudge in oblivious to these invisible eyes looking at their private storage and perhaps more than that in future.
    Instead of attempting to peer through this looking glass, attention should be put towards blocking it. Like I said, the government’s responsibility to its people is their safety. Pushing themselves into what could be delicate documents of any person they please simply because it is not illegal is not the kind of protection people have in mind when they imagine the defense department. Simply because it is an easy way to find out criminal activity, does not mean it should be used without warrant. It should be treated equally as home searches.
    It is not just of the United States government to take advantage of the citizenry while they remain unlearned on the subject of online privacy. It is the job of the government to protect its people, and by spying on their interactions and documents in the cloud they are overstepping their rights boundaries as protectorates.

  12. Cliff Nash September 23, 2016 at 8:32 pm #

    This article is rather complex. It looks very deeply into the privacy and rights of the people in the
    United States. When i think of someone needing warrant to search something i view it as
    the police or FBI wanting to get into someone’s home or their computer so obviously I would
    assume that devices such as phones would be fair game to look at without a warrant because
    the information, such as recent calls and things of the sort, are all available through the service provider.
    Clearly I could not be more wrong. The passwords placed on a phone is clearly there to keep people out and
    to make sure that the information you have on it stays private. So when looking at the case of Apple with the police
    trying to get into the phone of a major criminal and refusing to give out the password it is very reassuring.
    Personally i do not have anything super private nor incriminating on my phone and only have the password to
    remember my bathroom code for my dorms when i lived in Boland hall. (The bathroom code was four digits and so is the
    password code for the iPhone and it just made it easy to remember them both.) When you look at it from
    the perspective of someone who is actually trying to hide something it is very nice to know that big
    companies such as Apple are not looking to just give away the pass codes easily and just
    throw away the privacy the pass code offers.
    Personally when it comes to this kind of subject i am very much on the fence. I feel like people should not have
    worry about their pass codes and in turn their personal or private information being given out very easily. At the same time
    when the information being hidden belongs to a potential mass murderer or a lead subject in another case, it is good to
    give out the pass code so that all the evidence is there for the court system to review.
    Thinking someone is a major criminal is definitely a good reason to have access to their phone and the pass code that way
    all the information is accessible and the correct person is put away for the crime.
    Though, if it were that easy to get the pass codes to a phone have a free look at what is inside
    it is violating our constitutional rights because it is an invasion of privacy.
    Since this case was already fought in court and was ruled in favor of the defendant it is now the president. The court is always expected to give the benefit of the doubt to the people who have the phone. This will clearly make it harder for the police to get information out of the phone because they will need to find other ways of getting into the device without having the code to punch in and get all the information.

  13. Joselito Abarca September 23, 2016 at 8:51 pm #

    In recent months, there has been many numerous accounts where law and business interact. One of the most recent issues with this is Apple vs FBI. The FBI argues that Apple should give them access and break the encryption in order to open the cell phone of the San Bernardino shooter. Apple argued that it was a violation of their privacy and was unconstitutional. We live in a world where all our information is stored digitally. The advancement in technology has led us to become vulnerable to government entities and hackers. The issue that Microsoft is dealing with the cloud is a human issue that pertains to anyone who values privacy and inalienable rights. Microsoft is sewing the U.S government because they believe the government has been breaching the Constitution in an effort to obtain customer data from Microsoft. This goes against constitutional, privacy and human rights. Furthermore, at the beginning of the article is states that “the police need a warrant to search your smartphone”. What I find humorous is that the government has had surveillance on Americans for many years. The NSA scandal began when it was brought to light that the NSA was collecting millions of telephone records from Verizon and there was also “PRISM” which we know of through the revelations of Edward Snowden. What the government is trying do violates the US constitution. In the words of Judge Andrew Napolitano, the Fourth Amendment was created to “protect the quintessential American right of the right to be left alone”.The 4th amendment also protects companies from unreasonable searches and seizures. This is also a violation of the 1st amendment. Moreover, we live in a world where all our information is stored digitally. The FBI would be relying on an outdated law called the All Writs Act which was written in 1911 in the feud between Apple and the FBI. As Brad Smith points out “courts should not resolve issues of 21st century technology with law that was written in the era of the adding machine”. The courts need to adapt to this because when our founding fathers wrote the Constitution, they did not it imagine how it would be in the 21st Century. They never imagined cell phones, internet etc. Congress need to implement new legislation that protect the digital storage of the consumer. Brad Smith argues that “we are in a new age of technology that requires a new understanding of our fundamental rights”. With the advancement of technology, Congress need to create and implement laws that fit the current time period. I agree that Google, Apple, Facebook and all these major tech companies need stand up to the courts and protect the privacy rights of the company and its customers. If the government prevails this will be detrimental to the Microsoft brand because people would lose their trust. For tech companies it a major victory that companies cannot be forced to turn over customer emails stored on servers outside the United States. For those who support privacy rights, this is good. From the government’s point of view, they are trying to protect their people. The government imposes massive surveillance on the public but have not been able to counter terrorism domestically. Over the weekend, there were bombings in New York. As a college student who utilizes Microsoft products, knowing that the government has been looking at my information would make feel as if my privacy has been invaded. Consumers want to make sure their information is stored privately. With the rapid advancement in technology, Congress will have to continue creating legislation that pertain to the current time

    Thielman, Sam. “US Cannot Force Microsoft to Hand over Emails Stored Abroad, Court Rules.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 14 July 2016. Web. 23 Sept. 2016.

  14. Hakeem Marshall September 23, 2016 at 8:56 pm #

    The internet is one of the greatest things mankind ever created. It has given us access to all of the world’s information at our fingertips. It has allowed us to communicate with people all over the world without ever leaving your home. The internet can be a liberator for humanity. However, with every great tool our species has created, there are those who want to control it and use it for nefarious purposes. In this case, these “evil” people are the government. The internet has allowed us unfettered access to information. If say, a government were able to control this information, it could lead to potentially disastrous results. Fortunately, for every group that hates the free flow of information, there will be another group that loves the free flow of information and will fight to keep it. This is where civil rights lawyer Brad Smith comes in.
    Brad Smith is on a brave a noble quest. He alongside others such as Apple CEO Tim Cook have defended the consumer’s rights to their privacy repeatedly. The free flow of information as well as our privacy will probably be one of the biggest issues of our age. Our lives are becoming increasingly dependent on technology; especially the internet. Because of this, there will be more attempted power grabs by the government and corporations. As a result of this, we need more consumer advocates as well as a fundamental reimaging of our laws currently. As of right now, our laws regarding the internet are antiquated and exist to serve corporations and governments, rather than citizens. The reason for this is simple, the internet has exploded in a way that no one could have really predicted. There was this explosion with the dot com boom and our legislatures have been slow to respond. This has allowed a lot of groups with less than noble intentions to seek access to our information. We need to respond in a way that is prudent and swift.
    Part of the way we are going to do this is by seeing this push for consumer advocacy as a civil rights movement. That might seem dramatic given civil rights movements in the past but we are going to have to take this serious if we ever want ground in this movement. Also we are going to need people to put their money where their mouth is. Walk the walk and talk the talk. We are going to have to support pro consumer companies and vote for pro consumer legislators as well. Also we are going to have to put our voices out there through whatever means get the point across.
    In conclusion, we have a lot of work to do. We have to fight for our right to privacy. Our Founding Fathers could not have seen the internet coming. They could not have seen the attempts at power grabs by those who attempt to follow the Constitution which limits the size and scope of the government. We have to assert ourselves as Americans who demand our rights.

  15. Natalie Fiordaliso September 24, 2016 at 8:08 pm #

    Following a recent chain of events, Apple CEO, Tim Cook, refused to aid FBI officials and investigators in accessing data from a convicted mass-murder’s iPhone. Cook’s boldness stems from similar actions taken by Apple-rival, Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer of Microsoft, who has been spearheading a legal war against the government based on what he considers violations of the First and Fourth Amendments. Current law requires that investigators obtain a warrant form a judge in order to gain access to personal data through a phone tap, the mail or by searching a private residence. However, when it comes to Accessing similar forms of personal data in “digital” by way of the Cloud, cellular networks, Skype or web-mails, the same protections don’t apply.
    Brad Smith insists, “We are in a new age of technology that requires a new understanding of our fundamental rights” (Simonite 3), and has been waging a personal battle against the government based in this premise since beginning his career as a lawyer for Microsoft in 1993. Meanwhile, Neil Richards, a Washington University law professor adds, “It’s only because of freedom of speech and protection from surveillance that we have desegregation or marriage equality, or the trans bathroom fight in the upper south… We need the breathing space to
    (protest) in an age of digital surveillance” (Simonite 3).
    Smith suggests that this issue came to a head on October 30, 2013, when Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the U S government and employee of the CIA leaked classified information. As a result, companies like Microsoft were also called into question. Overall, Smith argues that the First and Fourth Amendments are being violated due to gag orders which prevent companies like Microsoft from “telling its customers about requests for data” (Simonite 7). While some experts argue that the time has come for Congress and the White House to
    update the way data access is handled, others suggest that companies like Microsoft are really only making a fuss because they are more concerned about their image than they are about protecting the public. Either way, if Brad Smith’s actions prove successful, he will have set a new precedent that Congress will have to respond to.
    I agree with Mr. Smith in the sense that this new age of technology has certainly brought about the need for sweeping changes in the way society defines certain rights and privileges but feel frustrated that the government has taken a such an abusive approach in “harvesting data from the private networks of Google and Yahoo without the companies’ knowledge” (Somonite 5). Private data, is private, no matter what the form, and so should qualify for the same protections under the law as those applied to paper documents and records. The fact that private citizens and private enterprise have become embroiled in a seemingly endless cycle of rhetoric and semantics is frustrating. My understanding, as simple-minded as it may seem, is that laws are intended to bring order while reflecting the views and values of a society. Furthermore, Congress and the Supreme Court are supposed to be charged with the duty of serving the people.
    That being said how is that it government agencies have become more privileged to act above the laws they are entrusted to enforce? And, what sense of trust do the existence of gag orders instill in the people if they are being misused? If, as some believe, companies like Microsoft begin losing customers due to a lack of good faith and those companies end up in bankruptcy, how has the government served us? What happens to the U S economy? Given that scenario, it seems foolish to believe that anybody really “wins”.

  16. OEF October 1, 2016 at 4:38 pm #

    The New York Times article, “Microsoft’s Top Lawyer Becomes A Civil Rights Crusader”
    analyzes the legal actions of IT corporations such as Microsoft and its peers to protect private data collected in their systems. These companies are are refusing U.S. government demands to acquire their customer’s data. Apple is the most recent company to take this stance in court, and other tech companies have filed a brief showing their support. Microsoft through lobbying efforts amounting to $8.5 million has begun to “push the White House and Congress to update the rules and legislation governing data access.” The plan moving forward is to set precedents by bringing lawsuits, led by Microsoft’s Chief Attorney Brad Smith, with the hope of setting precedents that address the lack of data access laws.

    Although the constitution does not explicitly list the right to privacy, it is inferred through other constitutional rights. Such as the fourth amendment right to not have your home searched without probable cause. Chief Attorney Brad Smith, argues that there is a need for laws that explicitly address the rights to data privacy in the digital age. Microsoft’s intentions are speculated to be less altruistic, and more about gaining competitive advantage. Suing the government gains them free publicity, and shows them as a company who is taking a stance against government data collection. Microsoft’s stance could help regain the trust with overseas consumers, who fear the American government’s ability to access their personal data collected through Microsoft products.
    Collection of private data is something that Congress does need to address. The current ideology of the Third party doctrine that regards the data collected by company’s as private data is outdated and a new standard needs to be set. The third party doctrine’s power comes from 1979 ruling by the Supreme Court. The judgement was that since phone companies were already privy to the all the numbers dialed by the customers, then it was alright for police to collect this data without a warrant. As Professor Steven Bellovin of Columbia University states in the article, “Law enforcement is collecting data well beyond even the third-party rule’s generous limits.” I concur with this statement, because collection of data today is more complex. The doctrine has not been updated to meet this complexity. Allowing for law enforcement to overstep its bounds, and essentially violate our privacy. I feel that this also violates the right of procedural due process. A constitutional right which guarantees that “when the state or federal government acts in such a way that denies a citizen of a life, liberty, or property interest, the person must first be given notice and the opportunity to be heard.” My private data is my property, regardless of where it is stored. To not be given notice that it is going to be collected to build a profile on me that might result in the loss of my liberty, I would argue, is a violation of right to procedural due process.

  17. Ryan Neff October 1, 2016 at 7:31 pm #

    In this article, “Microsoft’s Top Lawyer Becomes a Civil Rights Crusader”, by MIT Technology review, companies power in protecting consumer data is discussed. Online privacy continues to be a battleground between the government and the companies in control of our data. The amount of data we put out about ourselves on a daily basis is tremendous- and we can be exploited as a direct result of this. Cloud storage is becoming increasingly common, but cloud data isn’t protected in the same way that physical documents are. In the past year, we’ve seen examples of high ranking officials in tech companies refusing to comply with the government’s demand for customer data. Perhaps the most well-known example is when Tim Cook refused to help the FBI in their investigation of the San Bernardino killers. Helping the FBI break into just one phone would set a dangerous precedent, and Tim Cook did everything in his power to try to help to protect his customers. Brad Smith, Microsoft’s Chief Legal Officer, has engaged in a war to help protect consumer data. The laws that protect our privacy are outdated- and do not protect our online data effectively.
    In order to totally protect our data, we need people like Brad Smith to help champion the online civil rights movement. It might sound extreme to say that there is a need for an online civil rights movement, but as it stands, it is far too easy for our data to be exploited. Our private data must be kept private, regardless of who is storing it where. Smith is doing everything in his power to help set a precedent that will protect the data of users. Since the United States operates under a common law legal system, these cases that he is pushing could prove to be very important. He is trying to set a precedent that will protect those involved in future cases. Certainly, no one wants terrorists to get off free because their data can’t be accessed, but the fact of the matter is cases like this represent such a small part of all requests for data, and it’s using an extreme example. My private data should be no ones but mine, and I will continue to support those who are fighting for me and my rights.

  18. Jalal Zahir October 7, 2016 at 8:47 pm #

    Microsoft and Apple are at war with the United States government over privacy. They are trying to protect an individual’s personal data and information from being collected by the government. The Federal government is not going at phone calls or text messages anymore, it is going after the cloud. The cloud is the invisible electronic space where people’s home addresses, social security numbers, photos, and anything in between is stored. The government wants unlimited and total control of Google, Microsoft, Apple, and all major technological companies use of their cloud. Microsoft is trying to fight the government that the cloud should have the same privacy right as the government. Microsoft and Apple are fighting against this. They want to protect the people and they say that in order to check through the personal information of its users the government needs a search warrant just like they would in any other situation. According to the Fourth Amendment, the government can come into someone’s home and search their items only if they have a search warrant approved by a judge. Microsoft and Apple state that this need of a warrant extends to people’s technological information, and the government is not allowed access to it without one. The issue is do federal privacy laws apply to technology. The Bill of Rights was written centuries before such technology was available, so the courts have to interpret these laws with no historical precedent because these types of technologies have never been around before.

    Edward Snowden is a national hero. Every day that he is in exile is a disgrace and if I was the president I would immediately grant him clemency and allow him back in to the United States. He is a hero to the people and because of him the American people now understand the issue of privacy. Even though Microsoft has claimed it is fighting for the American people, Snowden revealed them to be the hypocrites that they are. Snowden revealed that the NSA was working with Microsoft to collect video calls from Skype and Microsoft Outlook. ( This is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment in my personal opinion. When someone’s property is being searched, they are at least presented with the search warrant by the police before it is conducted. But, this is not what happened. The government collected personal information and video calls of its citizens without the citizens knowing about it. Even if the government did have a search warrant, which it didn’t, it did not present it to the citizens it was searching, and people’s personal information was collected without their knowledge.
    The government will argue it is only doing this to help protect people, which I understand. Technological warfare is the chosen method in 2016 and acts of terrorism are not taken place on the battlefront anymore, it is taken place online. Terrorists are going online to communicate with one another to plan out attacks. The government will argue that if it does not have this information terrorists will be able to plan attacks on America without anyone knowing. I understand this concern, but am still not buying it. The government is collecting information on everyone, not just terrorists. People with absolutely no criminal record that have never once stepped out of line are having their personal information being downloaded and reviewed by the NSA. The NSA is collecting data on everybody, regardless if they are a threat to this nation or not. If the government cared about safety it would only collect data on people who are on government surveillance list and are suspected of being involved in such activities. The NSA just wants to collect as much information as possible. It does not matter about the quality of data, just the quantity.
    When Apple CEO Tim Cook refused to overturn the iPhone of the san Bernadino shooter to the FBI, I applauded him. He was bravely stepping up for the rights of the American people. Yes there was a legitimate threat that another attack could have taken place, and that the phone could have held information about it, he still needed to take a stand. If Apple had overturned their phone this one time, they would have done it again, and again. Each time the FBI asked Apple would have given what they wanted. This would’ve occurred until the FBI had complete and total control of all the information Apple had on its users. With the government, there is no one time rule. They will keep wanting more and more data and will not be satisfied until they get as much information as humanly possible. This is why privacy is the modern version of the civil rights movement. Each American’s right to privacy is being violated on a daily basis on a national scale. It is up to corporations like Apple and Microsoft to stand up and challenge the federal government, because only they have the resources to do so. It might be an unpopular opinion, but it is a necessary step the companies have to take, and with a little bit of luck the American people can retain their right to privacy once again.

  19. Dana October 9, 2016 at 7:30 pm #

    Privacy has become something that is a huge concern to individuals who use technology on a daily basis. Especially with individuals that use the cloud for online banking and storing personal information onto the clouds. As an iPhone user, it is good to know that the CEO is protecting our rights as consumers despite whatever charge they are facing. Smith stated that if people are storing their information onto the cloud that they can be reviewed by investigators. As a consumer, you want to believe that your information is being protected but after reading this article you are more aware of what the government can get into without the consumer knowing they are doing it.

    Also, finding out that the government violates the Fourth and First Amendments is frustrating. Aren’t they the individuals who are supposed to be enforcing these Amendments instead of violating them? I understand they need to see information based on certain circumstances but these circumstances should be written out specifically. It seems like the government is taking advantage of the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Which is scary because so many people use the clouds and other networks to communicate information to co-workers and friends.

  20. Michelle Pyatnychuk February 3, 2017 at 3:36 pm #

    It is significant that the president and chief legal officer, Brad Smith, of Microsoft is rallying for the protection of civil and privacy rights for his consumers and users. When the president of a major technological company is adamantly fighting for the people to get more protection from their government, is when you know that the issues that lie within the privacy laws are greater than ever. By citing that the actions of the United States government takes on a daily basis violates both the First and Fourth amendments, the chief legal officer of Microsoft is ready to take this fight for more civil rights protections for the people as far as the Supreme Court, seemingly the only court that is capable of real change. It seems strange to me that these issues of privacy rights have not even been met within the Supreme Court, excluding the 1979 ruling that phone information should be considered private, because there must have been cases upon cases where the privacy rights of a citizen were infringed upon by the government as a means to protect its country.

    Although the Federal Appeals Court sides with Microsoft that users information should be protected from foreign agencies, they did not cite the domestic protections that should be implanted as well. In fact, the lower courts are pushing for having governmental access to all sorts of personal data because of course it is all based on the constant threats that this country receives from terrorism. In fighting the terrorists that are raised on national soil or immigrating to the United States from radical, anti-American groups, the government has worked to protect its citizens at the cost of infringing upon their rights. They have justified all of their actions against the privacy of their citizens by stating that it is for the protection and safety of the greater population. There has to be a way to protect citizens from terrorism without having complete access to our personal data which is what Smith is fighting for.

    In Smith voicing his opinion about the actions taken by the government that are violating the Constitution, he is not only calling for the government to set up its regulations, he is also calling for other technological companies to put their customer’s rights before themselves. Through taking actions such as bringing cases to Federal courts and then appealing such cases, the Microsoft president is bringing attention to these issues and sometimes, just attention is enough to induct change. From Assange to Snowden, we have seen first-hand how much Americans value their privacy and civil rights and will be on the frontlines supporting any means of protecting these rights. Within this new presidential administration, it will be interesting to see how Smith will be able to continue his journey to justice as the former administration had not been able to take enough action to ensure that the people of this country would be entitled to all the rights bestowed upon them within the bounds of the Constitution.

  21. Nicolas F Carchio February 24, 2017 at 5:13 pm #

    The United States was founded upon the principles of the rights of individuals. These rights are explicitly stated in the Bill of Rights, or the first ten amendments, and have been expanded upon since with the passing of the fourteenth amendment and others. These rights protect citizens from outreach of other nations, large corporate entities or even the government itself. These protections were all put in place to ensure that no matter what is happening at the time, the citizens’ rights will never be infringed upon by the government, as what had happened to the colonists during the time of the English control of America. The protections of the fifth and fourteenth amendment both have a clause known as the ‘due process clause’. This clause is usually cited as a main protection for civil rights along with the fourth amendment, which states that there can be no unlawful searches or seizures. Unlawful would mean without a warrant, so that citizens cannot be searched because it is simply the will of the government to do so. Private property is protected by the Fifth Amendment that guarantees that citizens cannot be deprived from property by the government without “due process.” These protections ensure that citizens have rights, under the law that cannot be undermined by the government in any way.

    There are many issues and topics that are clear and easy to understand from the constitution regarding rights to property. However, in regards to technological property, it becomes harder to define the line between what is acceptable and what is not. With the new inventions of the personal cloud systems, information being stored on computers and other devises, as well as phone conversations and other aspects of individuals’ life that is on the internet. The question is then posed if the government has the ability to access these things without a warrant or consent of the owner. Many argue that this new form of technological property should be protected just as how all property has been in the past. This is essential to the argument as it determines if the government has the legal authority to access this information. The answer is simple: the government does not have the authority to access such information without a warrant, and when it does without, that is infringing upon the citizen’s Constitutional rights.

    There are many dangers of this government overstep without repercussions of the court. One main problem that may arise is government surveillance of whomever they choose to watch. Knowing that the government is looking over the shoulders of its citizens without their consent is a harmful thing to consider. In the end, if these things are not reprimanded, then it can cause serious problems. The Supreme Court will have to step in in order to rule if these personal online clouds are protected as private property, or if they are up to surveillance of the government. If they are ruling, as they should, then these will be protected, as it is an individual’s personal right to have the right to private property and the government should never be allowed to infringe upon that without the due process of the law.

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