Microsoft collaborated with Indian officials during elections and monitored activities at polling booths, an official of the global tech giant has said, asserting that the company is transparent about the collection of data run on its platforms. The official said the company’s privacy policies helped customers keep their data private and in their control. “Election officials in India have used our productivity and Cloud platforms for collaboration and running the election process, including monitoring of activities at polling booths. Our customers – the respective government departments – own all data relating to the processes they run on our platforms,” a Microsoft spokesperson told PTI. The spokesperson did not specify in which election Microsoft collaborated with the Indian officials. Microsoft was responding to a question on its policy regarding third-party use of data, privacy and data protection in the wake of controversy involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.
The spokesperson said Microsoft was transparent about data collection and empowers users to make informed decisions. “We make our policies and practices clear and accessible to everyone,” the official said. The research lab of the Washington-based company headed by Indian-American Satya Nadella also put out a statement saying the policies include “how we secure data; where we store and manage it; how we delete data; who can access customer data and on what terms; how we respond to government requests on data and how we help customers meet compliance requirements”. The spokesperson said the company’s privacy policies and processes helped customers keep their data private and in their control. “We do not use users’ email, chat, files or other personal content to target marketing activities to them,” the spokesperson said.
In a blog post, Microsoft said Cloud computing had changed the privacy equation between citizens and the state. No longer would an individual or company necessarily know when the government was searching its information. And without that knowledge, individuals and companies lacked the ability to protect their rights, it said. The company has filed four lawsuit against the US Government on the latter’s alleged interference in privacy matters and data protection, in particular search warrants. “Law enforcement needs to be effective and privacy rights need to be protected. This journey is not yet complete, and we look forward to continuing to work with so many others to see it to a successful conclusion,” it said.
The US Department of Justice and Microsoft approached the US Supreme Court yesterday to dismiss a case in which both were pitted against each other. This comes after the Congress passed the CLOUD Act. Now signed into law by President Donald Trump. The act clarifies the federal government’s authority when requesting user information held by US tech companies overseas.
“Microsoft has argued from the beginning of this case that Congress is the proper branch to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986,” Microsoft said. “Congress alone, we insisted, has the tools to address the question whether, and when, law enforcement may demand access to private electronic communications stored in other countries,” it said.