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10/3/2016
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Microsoft Execs Talk Public Policy Changes For Cloud

Microsoft highlights security and privacy among 78 public-policy recommendations for the future of global cloud growth.

Microsoft today issued public-policy recommendations in support of global cloud growth that emphasize the need for improvements such as stronger security and new skillsets as more individuals and businesses move to the cloud. 

Satya Nadella, Microsoft's CEO, and Brad Smith, Microsoft's president, shared the details during a cloud-focused event held in Dublin, Ireland, today. 

Microsoft has targeted cloud computing and invested more than $3B on European cloud initiatives thus far, the company said. In the past year, it has spent more than $1B in cloud infrastructure in Europe and currently has data centers in Ireland, Amsterdam, the UK, and Germany.

The software giant's cloud policy recommendations are listed in a new book, "A Cloud for Global Good," which was also published today. The book is intended to support security, economic development, and environmental protection amidst the global growth of cloud.

Microsoft plans to use it as a blueprint for government discussions related to policy changes as more businesses adopt cloud computing.

Under Nadella's leadership, Microsoft has adopted a mobile-first, cloud-first approach. The goal is to use cloud to enable mobility across all devices, which is only possible through the cloud, Nadella said during his keynote.

"Every company is becoming a digital company," he emphasized. "Every organization will be measured by their ability to have predictive power and analytical power," both of which are "at the core of what the cloud enables."

The book lists 78 public policy recommendations across 15 categories. These were created to align with the broader goal of making the cloud more trusted, responsible, and inclusive as it continues to grow, said Smith. By inclusive, this means groups of workers will not be left behind as new skills are required amid the rise of cloud computing.

Topics addressed in the book include strengthening security and privacy in the digital age, next-generation skills, and safeguarding communities. Specific proposals address issues like protecting people from online fraud, and data flow disruptions that can interfere with services.

"It all comes down to one thing," said Smith. "It's about ensuring the kinds of traditional protections that we've all had not just for years, but for centuries, for information that is stored on paper actually persists when we move our information to the cloud." 

As more businesses move their data across borders, he continued, governments will need to create new cybersecurity norms to ensure everyone can continue living and working as they normally would. We need to do more to keep data secure, and we need new technology and policies to keep data secure.

"People have rights in their information, and these rights need to be protected," Smith noted.

Microsoft works to address cybercrime issues in its Digital Crimes Unit, which has more than 100 people in 30 countries who partner with governments to fight problems like malware, child exploitation, and fraud.

The company also recently won a lawsuit against the US government, which in 2014 served a search warrant for customer emails stored in Microsoft's Dublin data center. Earlier this year, the court ruled in favor of Microsoft, which set a strong precedent for rights to information stored in the cloud.

"Little did we imagine that when we started that case, it would wind its way through the courts, literally taking us years. Little did we know that if we persisted … that we would actually win," said Smith.

Microsoft brought this case because it sought to establish an important principle.

"We thought it was important to establish that no government, through its own unilateral legal process, can reach into other people's email located in other parts of the world," he continued.

As part of its European cloud initiatives, Microsoft also plans to offer Azure, Office 365, and Dynamics 365 from multiple data centers in France starting in 2017. It already offers cloud services from data centers in the UK and Microsoft Azure in Germany, where it plans to offer Office 365 next year.

Microsoft's decision to offer its services from European countries is not a surprise, says Kong Yang, head geek at SolarWinds. This builds trust between Microsoft and the EU with respect to the safety of user information.

The EU has firm data protection regulations to safeguard the processing and free movement of its citizens' data, he explains. These are based on the current EU Data Protection Directive, which will be replaced by a stricter EU General Data Protection Regulation. 

Cloud vendors seeking to operate in the EU must be compliant to these rules and cannot export data outside the EU to countries that lack equivalent protection, says Yang. The easiest way to meet the regulations is to host infrastructure and software services inside the EU.

"By investing in EU data centers for their cloud offerings, Microsoft is ensuring that their service offerings comply to EU data regulations," he explains. "This essential step builds trust in Microsoft's service offerings, as any data residing on Microsoft's cloud is subject to heavy fines and penalties should a breach and data loss associated with EU citizens' data occur." 

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Kelly is an associate editor for InformationWeek. She most recently reported on financial tech for Insurance & Technology, before which she was a staff writer for InformationWeek and InformationWeek Education. When she's not catching up on the latest in tech, Kelly enjoys ... View Full Bio

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