In an interview with the London Times, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella clarified his company’s position that consumers’ data would not be used for profit. As noted in a report by Fortune, Nadella addressed concerns about whether or not Microsoft would profit from customer data, much like Google and Facebook do.
Microsoft certainly has plenty of data to use for profit; the Redmond company bought LinkedIn for $26.2 billion in 2016, and GitHub for $7.5 billion earlier this year. However, Nadella reiterated Microsoft’s stance that data privacy is “a human right.” Nadella and other tech CEOs believe that “detailed” online user profiles “would result in significant harm over time.”
Other companies are learning this lesson the hard way; Google has been fined billions by the European Commission in several antitrust cases and Facebook is still trying to recover from the Cambridge Analytica data breach earlier this year, where millions of Facebook profiles were improperly accessed. Subsequent breaches have put Facebook in the spotlight since, but Facebook is doing little to ease their users expectations that their data is still safe.
In May 2018, the European Union (EU) put the General Data Privacy Regulation into effect. The legislation has since put pressure on tech companies around the world to better secure their user data. California has a similar data privacy law that won’t go into effect until 2020. United States Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon has proposed a nationwide user data privacy law. Wyden’s “Consumer Data Privacy Act” proposes fines for companies up to 4% of their global annual revenues, as well as jail time and personal fines for CEOs.
As a precaution, Microsoft extended GDPR (General Rights Privacy Regulation) rights to users outside the EU. Nadella calls out Microsoft’s competitors to step up and put in place their own data privacy protections. However, Nadella noted that customers “deserve a choice” about how their data is used.
Nadella pointed out that its products and sevrices would suffer if Microsoft abused user data privacy.
“Users should only use that service if that customer data creates utility for them. If you think about LinkedIn, it is all about economic opportunity for the member. It’s not about taking member data and using it for something else.”
Since Nadella took over Microsoft in 2014, Nadella has helped Microsoft stock triple as of September 2018, making Microsoft the second-largest company, just behind Apple.