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Microsoft Speaks Out About EU “Safe Harbor” Policy

Microsoft Speaks Out About EU “Safe Harbor” Policy
[Photo: Flickr user Razvan Orendovici]

Microsoft is requesting legal changes in response to a recent controversial political decision in Europe. Earlier this month, the European Union undid its long-standing “Safe Harbor” policy, which allowed foreign tech companies to store data about European users in data centers outside of Europe.

Despite an amnesty period for huge companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook, the tech industry is worried. Because of the provisions of the EU decision, the companies may have to change their operating models in Europe and spend large sums of money reconfiguring the way they store user data.

In a blog post, Microsoft chief legal officer Brad Smith called for new international agreements on data sharing. “In recent years it has been apparent that a new century requires a new privacy framework. It’s time to go build it,” Smith wrote.

The proposal by Microsoft calls for international agreements over how to regulate the Internet, for the EU to issue clear guidelines on user privacy, and for “an expedited process for governmental entities in the U.S. and EU to access personal online information that is moved across the Atlantic.”

Under the terms of the amnesty, the U.S. and EU have three months to hammer out a successor to the Safe Harbor policy. Large tech companies like Microsoft, as well as outside interest groups on both the commercial and user-privacy ends of the spectrum, are trying their best to guarantee the most favorable terms possible.