March, 2013

  • Start of April Marks Continued H-1B Uncertainty

    Posted by Brad Smith
    General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Microsoft

    Beginning next week – on April 1 – employers can start filing applications for H-1B visas for skilled workers that they are looking to hire to fill open jobs here in the U.S. Many of these potential workers are foreign-born students about to graduate in science, technology, engineering and math from U.S. universities, and are in demand to fill critical jobs in the U.S. economy.

    Each year, there are only 85,000 H-1B visas available for highly skilled individuals – 65,000 visas under the regular “cap” and 20,000 for those with advanced degrees from U.S. universities.

    This year, many employers and highly skilled potential workers are facing April 1 with increased anxiety since the U.S. government again expects all the H-1B visas for the upcoming fiscal year to be snatched up in the first week.

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  • Enhancing Transparency: Putting Microsoft’s Patents on the Web

    Posted by Brad Smith
    General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Microsoft

    Last month at an event on Capitol Hill, Microsoft pledged to put information on the Web that would enable anyone to determine for which patents we are the real party in interest.

    As I mentioned in my blog post about the event, transparency regarding patent ownership is an important part of a well-functioning patent system. One of the fundamental objectives of the patent system is to provide notice regarding inventions – not only the nature of what has been invented but who owns the patent.

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  • New Study Highlights Economic Impact of Closing the Skills Gap in Washington State

    Posted by Brad Smith
    General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Microsoft

    Washington State can create and fill 160,000 new jobs and reduce its unemployment rate by up to two percentage points over the next five years by closing the gap between the skills employers need and the skills possessed by potential employees. Doing so would also generate $720 million in additional state tax revenues and $80 million more in local tax revenues annually; and save $350 million in state unemployment costs.

    That’s the conclusion reached in “Great Jobs Within Our Reach: Solving the Problem of Washington State’s Growing Jobs Skills Gap,” an important new study conducted by Boston Consulting Group in conjunction with the Washington Roundtable

    A great deal of attention, both locally and nationally, has been paid to this skills gap since the start of the recession – so much, in fact, that we sometimes risk losing sight of the magnitude of the opportunity and challenge we face. 

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  • The Importance of Search Result Location

    Editor's Note: The following is a guest post from Susan Athey, a Professor of Economics at Stanford University Graduate School of Business and a long-time Microsoft consultant.

    Search engines are a technological marvel: In milliseconds, they can bring order to the vastness of the Internet. In fact, it’s estimated that about two billion people turn to a search engine on a regular basis to find their way around the Web.

    As this technology has evolved, search engines have become more than simply virtual answer desks. Today they have become “commerce platforms,” pointing people to the products and services they seek by connecting potential customers to a growing number of online business.

    But what happens if a search engine decides to place links to its own products and services at the top of the search results page, crowding out results identified by its algorithm as the best?

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  • Microsoft Releases 2012 Law Enforcement Requests Report

    Posted by Brad Smith
    General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Microsoft

    Today, we are releasing our 2012 Law Enforcement Requests Report. This is our first Law Enforcement Requests Report. It provides data on the number of requests we received from law enforcement agencies around the world relating to Microsoft online and cloud services and how we responded to those requests. All of our major online services are covered in this report, including, for example, Hotmail, Outlook.com; SkyDrive; Xbox LIVE; Microsoft Account; and Office 365. We’re also making available similar data relating to Skype, which Microsoft acquired in October 2011.

    We will update this report every six months.

    Our Perspective

    In recent months, there has been broadening public interest in how often law enforcement agencies request customer data from technology companies and how our industry responds to these requests. Google, Twitter and others have made important and helpful contributions to this discussion by publishing some of their data. We’ve benefited from the opportunity to learn from them and their experience, and we seek to build further on the industry’s commitment to transparency by releasing our own data today.

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  • Our Commitment to Compliance

    Posted by John Frank
    Vice President & Deputy General Counsel, Microsoft

    Today, the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. government is reviewing allegations that Microsoft business partners in three countries may have engaged in illegal activity, and if they did, whether Microsoft played any role in these alleged incidents.

    We take all allegations brought to our attention seriously, and we cooperate fully in any government inquiries. Like other large companies with operations around the world, we sometimes receive allegations about potential misconduct by employees or business partners, and we investigate them fully, regardless of the source. We also invest heavily in proactive training, compliance systems, monitoring and audits to ensure our business operations around the world meet the highest legal and ethical standards.

    The matters raised in the Wall Street Journal are important, and it is appropriate that both Microsoft and the government review them. It is also important to remember that it is not unusual for such reviews to find that an allegation was without merit. (The WSJ reported earlier this week that an allegation has been made against the WSJ itself, and that, after a thorough investigation, its lawyers have been unable to determine that there was any wrongdoing).

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  • Gaming the STEM Skills Gap

    Posted by John Scott Tynes
    Imagine Cup Competition Manager, Microsoft

    At a time when good jobs in IT are going unfilled, there is a strong desire among parents and educators to improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in K-12 schools. The need to embrace STEM skills early is clear: in a 2011 survey commissioned by Microsoft, nearly four in five STEM college students said they chose to pursue STEM while still in high school (and one in five had chosen in middle school), yet the vast majority of those same students reported their K-12 STEM education did not leave them prepared to excel in college.

    Scott Quibell, a parent who volunteers with the Kodu Club at Explorer Elementary School near Detroit, watches as a student works with the Kodu Cup software.

    The time to inspire kids to pursue scientific skills and careers is obvious: early and often. Without that crucial intervention, and the chance for kids to discover that they really can master these skills, they will graduate high school believing STEM is just too hard for them. A recent survey commissioned by ASQ found that the risk of failure has a profound impact on how teenagers perceive STEM skills, with nearly half of them reporting they are uncomfortable pursuing challenging academic studies because they fear failure – and 95 percent of them see STEM skills as a risky course of study.

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  • Among the ‘World’s Most Ethical Companies’

    Posted by Dan Bross
    Senior Director, Corporate Citizenship, Microsoft

    We live in a world of increased and appropriate expectations related to the accountability companies have to operate as good corporate citizens. Consumers expect companies to have a positive impact in communities where they operate. People from organizations such as Microsoft are expected to behave with integrity, all day.

    Every day.

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  • Women: Talent and Potential are Boundless, Opportunity Should be Too…

    Posted by Orlando Ayala
    Chairman of Emerging Markets, Microsoft

    In celebration of International Women’s Day, Microsoft is proud to join United Nations Women (UN Women) and artists from around the world to launch a moving and inspiring song and music video, “One Woman.” It celebrates what we all know: to enable the future we want, we must recognize the enormous potential of half of the world’s population – women.

    To truly unleash that potential, women must be free from discrimination, including the gender-based violence which is the focus of this year’s International Women’s Day. Up to seven in 10 women will experience some form of violence in their lifetimes. This violence causes more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined in women ages 15 to 44. Violence against women also comes at a high economic cost, ranging from an estimated US $11.28 billion annually in Australia, to US $32.9 billion annually in England and Wales.

    The “One Woman” song aims to galvanize support and raise awareness for this issue. We encourage you to take action and share the song because together we can make a difference by saying no to violence and yes to gender equality.

     

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  • Student Privacy Should Not Be for Sale

    Posted by Cameron Evans
    National & Chief Technology Officer of U.S. Education, Microsoft

    How would you react if you learned that an outside agency came to your child’s school and, without your knowledge or consent, collected confidential data about your child and then used the data they gathered to make money for themselves? Would you be upset? As a parent, I believe the answer is resoundingly “yes.”

    In our view, this is unacceptable. We don’t let advertising and marketing representatives come into schools to watch, listen and take away data on student interactions in the classroom so they can market to children, and we shouldn’t let that happen in the virtual world either. Cloud Services providers selling to schools and colleges should be transparent about how they use the data they collect, and get clear consent for the data they collect and use.

    Student data and student privacy should not be for sale. Period.

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  • Microsoft & Politico Present Third Annual State Solutions Conference in Washington, DC

    Posted by Jeff Meisner
    Editor, Microsoft on the Issues

    Last week, four governors and approximately 150 policy thought-leaders joined us at the Microsoft Innovation & Policy Center for third annual State Solutions Conference with Politico, coinciding with the National Governors Association winter meeting in Washington, DC.

    The event was split into two parts –the first being a morning panel with DGA Chairman Governor Peter Shumlin (D-VT) addressing the top priorities for Vermont and the nation, including education, jobs training, healthcare and disaster response.

    The second event featured individual panels with Governors Dan Malloy (D-Conn.), Bill Haslam (R-Tenn.), and RGA Vice Chairman Scott Walker (R-Wisc.).

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  • The Importance of Playing It Safe

    Posted by David Finn
    Associate General Counsel, Microsoft Cybercrime Center

    On March 6, Microsoft anti-piracy teams around the world turn their attention to raising awareness of the issues surrounding software piracy. What started as a stand-alone day six years ago has evolved into a series of events and activities that bring together piracy experts, cyber-security analysts, IP advocates and law enforcement  to educate consumers and businesses about the dangers of using pirated and counterfeit software.

    Addressing software piracy is a critical issue for our shareholders, partners, employees and customers, because while counterfeit software may look like genuine software, it doesn’t work like genuine software.

    In support of Microsoft’s Play It Safe campaign, Microsoft asked International Data Corporation (IDC) to investigate the consumer and enterprise experiences with software piracy. The results, compiled in a white paper sponsored by Microsoft,* were pretty eye-opening: IDC found that consumers and businesses who use pirated software will encounter dangerous malware more than one-third of the time. Some of that malware enables cybercriminals to gain remote access to a victim’s computer without the victim knowing about it. The malware can then record a person’s every keystroke – allowing cybercriminals to steal a victim’s personal and financial information – or remotely switch on an infected computer’s microphone and video camera, giving cybercriminals eyes and ears in board rooms and living rooms.

    Beyond an in-depth examination of malware found on pirated software, IDC surveyed 2,077 consumers and 258 CIOs/IT across 10 countries, and found that a whopping 64 percent of those surveyed said they knew people who had used counterfeit software and experienced security problems with it.

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  • Breaking New Ground to Fight Online Piracy

    Posted by Jeff Meisner
    Editor, Microsoft on the Issues

    Microsoft recently announced its 10-year effort to destabilize and disrupt a global organized crime ring that traded in counterfeit software.

    I sat down with Microsoft Assistant General Counsel Matt Lundy, Microsoft Online Piracy Senior Program Manager Peter Anaman, and Microsoft Senior Program Manager of Investigations Peter Fifka to learn about this decade-long case.

    What can you tell us about this case? What’s the history of the operation?

    Peter Fifka: In 2002, Microsoft investigators identified a small group of Eastern Europe-based criminals that were responsible for a website called cdcheap.net. This organization, which we internally dubbed “CD Cheap,” ran professional-looking e-commerce sites, employing a simple business model to fraudulently trick customers into buying counterfeit software. The online organized crime organization evolved from physical disc delivery model into a download-focused business model over the span of about five years, from 2002 to 2007. Both models created hundreds of bogus e-commerce sites that were primarily advertised by spam sent using sophisticated techniques, including the criminal use of botnets and Trojan-hijacked computers.

    Peter Anaman: A professor at University of California at San Diego estimated that the criminals behind CD Cheap made up to $3.9 million per month with spam promoting counterfeit software. In fact, at one time, they had more than 4,000 active websites used for spam campaigns. It became evident to our team of investigators that the same crime organization responsible for CD Cheap also owned servers used for counterfeit pharmaceutical sales. Over the course of 10 years, Microsoft was able to work with law enforcement, ISPs, domain registrars, credit card companies and other financial institutions to shut off funding to these criminal organizations, significantly reducing the presence of counterfeit software spam and sites selling counterfeit software and other illegal products.

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