Brad Smith is Microsoft's general counsel and executive vice president of Legal and Corporate Affairs. He leads the company's Department of Legal and Corporate Affairs (LCA), which has approximately 1,100 employees located in 55 countries. Mr. Smith is responsible for the company's legal work, its intellectual property portfolio and patent licensing business as well as its government affairs and philanthropic work. He also serves as Microsoft's corporate secretary and its chief compliance officer.
Mr. Smith currently co-chairs the board of directors of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) and is the chair-elect of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity. In Washington state, Mr. Smith has served as chair of the Washington Roundtable, a leading Washington state-based business organization, and he has advanced several statewide education initiatives.
Mr. Smith currently serves as president of the Association of General Counsel. Earlier this year, he was named by the National Law Journal as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in the United States.
Mr. Smith has been general counsel since 2002. He can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#BradSmi.
Posted by Brad SmithGeneral Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Microsoft
Last Thursday, news coverage focused on a case in 2012 in which our investigators accessed the Hotmail content of a user who was trafficking in stolen Microsoft source code. Over the past week, we’ve had the opportunity to reflect further on this issue, and as a result of conversations we’ve had internally and with advocacy groups and other experts, we’ve decided to take an additional step and make an important change to our privacy practices.
Effective immediately, if we receive information indicating that someone is using our services to traffic in stolen intellectual or physical property from Microsoft, we will not inspect a customer’s private content ourselves. Instead, we will refer the matter to law enforcement if further action is required.
Posted by Brad SmithGeneral Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Microsoft
Today we are updating our transparency reporting to provide new information relating to governmental demands for customer data. Beginning last summer, Microsoft, Google, and other companies filed lawsuits against the U.S. government arguing that we have a legal and constitutional right to disclose more detailed information about these demands. We contended that we should be able to disclose information about legal orders issued pursuant to U.S. national security laws such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which we had previously been barred from disclosing.
As a result of that litigation and after lengthy discussions, the Government recently agreed for the first time to permit technology companies to publish data about FISA orders. While there remain some constraints on what we can publish (more details on that below), we are now able to present a comprehensive picture of the types of requests that we receive from the U.S. Government pursuant to national security authorities.
Last week, President Obama spoke about the role of the National Security Agency and announced some important changes to the surveillance practices of the U.S. government. We appreciate the steps the President announced, which represent positive progress on key issues including privacy protections for non-U.S. citizens. There is more work to do to define some of the details and additional steps that are needed, so we’ll continue to work with both the administration and Congress to advocate for reforms consistent with the principles our industry outlined in December.
This week, the World Economic Forum holds its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland where these same issues of data privacy and reform of government surveillance will be on the agenda. We hope that these discussions will spur a focus on the international steps that governments can take together. While there is no substitute for American leadership and action on these issues, the time has come for a broader international discussion. We need an international legal framework – an international convention – to create surveillance and data-access rules across borders.
This week, we have seen tremendous enthusiasm and excitement from more than 13 million students who are learning a new language. The language? Computer Science.
Across the country and around the world, students have been celebrating Computer Science Education Week by participating in Hour of Code events. In partnership with Code.org, Microsoft has been hosting Hour of Code programs at our retail stores and with our YouthSpark partners, witnessing the delight of students who are experiencing coding for the first time. This week, I had the opportunity to see this excitement firsthand when I met with students and teachers at Fairwood Elementary School in Renton, Wash. to present $10,000 in Code.org funding for tablets that will help students strengthen their computer science skills.
By 2042, the U.S. population is projected to be “majority minority," and no one race or ethnicity will any longer be the majority in America. While America increasingly reflects the extraordinarily diverse people and cultures from around the world, the legal profession does not.
Unless the legal profession makes faster progress, it will miss the dynamism and creativity that diversity brings to other fields. We risk failure in having a profession that is as diverse as the country we serve – a prerequisite for healthy legal service for a democracy.
Many lawyers are aware we have not kept pace with the nation. What is troubling is the lack of clarity about why this is happening. And until we know why, we are just guessing at the best ways to help build a more diverse legal profession.
Today, we are joining AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter and Yahoo in calling for reforms of government surveillance.
Since Microsoft was founded, we’ve believed technology is a powerful tool that can help people. In that belief we remain steadfast.
But we also recognize another important point. People won’t use technology they don’t trust. Governments have put this trust at risk, and governments need to help restore it.
Last week we announced that we’re taking new steps to reduce the risk of government snooping. Today we’re joining with others across our industry to call on governments to adhere to specific principles with respect to surveillance.
With 40 percent of all jobs in Washington state tied to trade, the Seattle region has long been described as “A Gateway to the Pacific.” That idea was at the forefront of conversation as business, civic and government leaders gathered last night for the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s Regional Leadership Conference. I had the opportunity to address the audience about our region’s future.
I spoke about Puget Sound visionaries such as Thomas Mercer, whose 1854 vision of a canal to connect Puget Sound with Lake Washington and start to create a union of east and west – North America with the Pacific and with Asia – would become reality two generations later.
One of the exciting aspects of life in the tech sector is the pace of innovation and speed of change. But the rapid changes can present challenges for policymakers. What, for example, are the policy implications of “big data” and a cloud that transfers data across national and international borders? What are the privacy implications of powerful wearable computers that record audio and video? The University of Washington’s new Tech Policy Lab is a unique interdisciplinary lab designed to help examine these and other questions. Truly understanding these issues, and shaping effective ideas and policies, requires experts in range of diverse disciplines to work together, and the UW’s pioneering approach does just that.
To followers of technology issues, there are many days when Microsoft and Google stand apart. But today our two companies stand together. We both remain concerned with the Government’s continued unwillingness to permit us to publish sufficient data relating to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) orders.
Each of our companies filed suit in June to address this issue. We believe we have a clear right under the U.S. Constitution to share more information with the public. The purpose of our litigation is to uphold this right so that we can disclose additional data.
On six occasions in recent weeks we agreed with the Department of Justice to extend the Government’s deadline to reply to these lawsuits. We hoped that these discussions would lead to an agreement acceptable to all. While we appreciate the good faith and earnest efforts by the capable Government lawyers with whom we negotiated, we are disappointed that these negotiations ended in failure.
Today we have asked the Attorney General of the United States to personally take action to permit Microsoft and other companies to share publicly more complete information about how we handle national security requests for customer information. We believe the U.S. Constitution guarantees our freedom to share more information with the public, yet the Government is stopping us. For example, Government lawyers have yet to respond to the petition we filed in court on June 19, seeking permission to publish the volume of national security requests we have received. We hope the Attorney General can step in to change this situation.
Until that happens, we want to share as much information as we currently can. There are significant inaccuracies in the interpretations of leaked government documents reported in the media last week. We have asked the Government again for permission to discuss the issues raised by these new documents, and our request was denied by government lawyers. In the meantime, we have summarized below the information that we are in a position to share, in response to the allegations in the reporting:
Not surprisingly, we remain subject to these types of legal obligations when we update our products and even when we strengthen encryption and security measures to better protect content as it travels across the web. Recent leaked government documents have focused on the addition of HTTPS encryption to Outlook.com instant messaging, which is designed to make this content more secure as it travels across the internet. To be clear, we do not provide any government with the ability to break the encryption, nor do we provide the government with the encryption keys. When we are legally obligated to comply with demands, we pull the specified content from our servers where it sits in an unencrypted state, and then we provide it to the government agency.
Yesterday, Washington took an important step in helping create new opportunities for our state’s children and our economy.
Brad Smith, General Counsel and Executive Vice President of Legal & Corporate Affairs at Microsoft and several students look on as Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee signs SHB1472 into law at Rainier Beach High School in Seattle.
The NASDAQ Stock Market dedicated yesterday’s market close to Kids In Need of Defense.
Founded by Microsoft and Angelina Jolie in 2008, KIND’s mission is simple – ensuring due process and legal representation for unaccompanied children in immigration proceedings in the United States. The opportunity to ring the Closing Bell provided a moment in time to highlight the urgent need for more pro bono attorneys.
Every year, thousands of lone children arrive in the United States, seeking safety and stability. They have fled their homes, countries and persecution, as well as severe abuse, abandonment, violent conflict, desperate poverty, forced marriage and female genital mutilation, among other hardships.
Many are teenagers. Some are as young as two years old. Many have suffered in ways that no child should ever have to.
Today, the U.S. Senate took a significant first step toward reforming our nation’s broken and outdated immigration system with the introduction of comprehensive legislation by the ‘Gang of 8’ Senators. The bipartisan bill will broaden economic prosperity in both the short and long run by increasing access to the best and brightest talent from around the world, while also providing American students and workers with additional STEM education and training opportunities.
We thank the Senators for their leadership on this proposal and look forward to continuing to help refine the legislation. Microsoft strongly hopes that the legislative process will now move forward, as a comprehensive approach will strengthen our country’s long term economy. The bill contains numerous positive reforms that are essential for the continued growth of the tech sector, such as urgently needed increases in high-skilled visas and solutions to address the extensive backlog in employment-based green cards. It also provides for increased worker portability for visas and removes outdated per country caps for green cards.
Importantly, the legislation also helps us take steps to build our American workforce by establishing a new STEM education fund. The creation of a new STEM fund will help states invest in innovative programs that will build a stronger pipeline of U.S. workers equipped with the right skills for America’s future jobs.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak to the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) at a special summit in Maryland focused on privacy in the digital age. The summit marked a key point in a year-long initiative by NAAG President and Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler aimed at exploring the best ways to manage online privacy risks and how best for NAAG to apply its resources to help ensure that the Internet's major players take meaningful steps to protect privacy online. We at Microsoft definitely appreciated the leadership and work of Attorney General Gansler in making privacy a priority for his office. His goals and the goals of NAAG are very much in line with our belief that, done right, online privacy and the economic model that supports the free Web can take a big step forward.
At the outset of 2013, I wrote that this could be a pivotal year for our industry as it pertains to prioritizing people’s online privacy. Now, just a few months into the year, there is substantial cause for optimism.
New leaders with strong commitments to privacy have taken the helm at a number of key groups that will help shape the future of online privacy. Collectively, we’re continuing the hard work needed to reach consensus on standards and rules to better protect people’s information. And consumer groups, as well as consumers themselves, are raising their voices and urging the computing industry to work together to give people more choice and control over how information is collected and shared online.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Earlier today, I participated in an event on Capitol Hill about the U.S. patent system and software patents sponsored by BSA│The Software Alliance and the National Association of Manufacturers. Panelists included representatives of tech companies, manufacturers, and start-ups, and it was interesting to see the extent to which all of us innovate in software and rely on the patent system to incentivize and protect those innovations. This is not surprising: we live in a digital world. Many things that used to be done mechanically or via hardware – such as throttle control systems – are now implemented in software.
Recent studies from the Department of Commerce and the Brookings Institution show that patents drive job creation, productivity, and economic growth today. Given the benefits of the patent system, it is important to ensure that it functions well. As I mentioned in my remarks today, there is no question that the U.S. patent system has tremendous strengths but also significant weaknesses. All of us – private companies, the USPTO, Congress and the courts – share responsibility for taking steps to improve the operation of the patent system. From Microsoft’s perspective, the key opportunities relate to increasing transparency, curbing litigation abuse, and improving patent quality. Specific reforms we support include:
This is the second in a series of blog posts by Microsoft executives regarding the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Read the first blog post on the Citizenship blog by Lori Harnick, general manager, Citizenship and Public Affairs.
It’s estimated that 600 million jobs worldwide will need to be created over the next decade to make up for jobs lost in the recent economic crisis. Yet, many, many jobs stand open now without skilled workers to fill them. These issues of job creation and the skills gap were top of mind for many people last week at Davos, as I learned from the number of conversations I had with delegates and the many meetings dedicated to these topics.
Editor’s Note: This post is part of a monthly series from Microsoft called “The View from Washington State”. The View from Washington State provides insight and commentary on topics and trends of importance to technology, education, corporate citizenship and public policy in Washington State.
Several months ago, in the other Washington, I had the opportunity to discuss the country’s need for new ideas to address the current shortage of engineers and computer scientists. Among other things, I called for coupling an increase in H1B visas and green cards with higher fees to obtain those credentials for their employees. These fees would provide billions of dollars over the next decade to invest in improving K-12 and higher education here in the U.S., to ensure that American students in U.S. schools are better prepared for the jobs of tomorrow.
The idea is gaining bipartisan support in our nation’s capital and its adoption would provide short- and long-term benefits.
It would immediately help employers like Microsoft hire the people it needs today. We currently have more than 6,000 open job opportunities, more than half of which are for computer scientists and engineers. Giving employers who are finding it increasingly hard to fill the jobs they create access to more talent, will provide an immediate shot in the arm to the national economy. Put simply, if Felix Hernandez is available, you want to be able to sign him for your team.
Over the longer term, the resulting investments in STEM education will help ensure that more of our nation’s young people fully benefit from the exciting career opportunities being created by the innovation economy.
But at the same time, we here in Washington state must commit ourselves to implementing equally important efforts to address this skills shortage.
As 2012 draws to a close, we’re starting to see a number of “year-in-review” pieces recapping key developments in the tech industry over the past 12 months. One item that I think deserves to be near the top of these year-end lists is an issue to which we and others have been paying especially close attention.
We continue to strive to put privacy first for our customers, while recognizing that providing consumers with more choice and control of their privacy requires strong collaboration with a number of stakeholders. We often have a unique perspective in these discussions: We have billions of paying customers, as well as a thriving advertising business.
We’re looking ahead to 2013 to continue our efforts to put our customers front and center with respect to privacy, while also working with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), consumer groups, the advertising industry, and government officials to seek a clear path forward. But first, let’s look at some of the progress made this year, and what future success could look like.
The national debt is one of the most serious fiscal issues facing the United States today. It threatens to undermine our nation’s economic growth and competitiveness. The challenge is real and immediate, and it is essential that we come together as a nation to address this issue in a bi-partisan manner.
At Microsoft, we’re committed to doing what we can to help foster this important dialogue. That’s why, along with hundreds of thousands of people and hundreds of the country’s businesses, we are lending our voice and support to The Campaign to Fix the Debt.
Today, on our Redmond campus, we are hosting Erskine Bowles, the co-founder of the campaign. In addition to helping found and lead this campaign, Erskine was co-chair of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (the “Simpson-Bowles Commission”). During his visit, Erskine will participate in a town hall discussion with several hundred employees about the threats posed to our economy by the national debt.
November marks the end of a very long election season. It also marks the start of a new beginning. After all the campaigning and the political ads, November provides all of us a time to come together and prepare for the fast-approaching new year.
For example, here in Washington State, a new year gives us a new opportunity to forge new working relationships across the aisle and to coalesce around a shared vision for our state. At a recent meeting of the Washington Council on International Trade, I outlined one possibility for that shared vision with some thoughts on how we might keep Washington competitive in the global economy.
Like most places throughout the country, our state faces a number of significant challenges. But Washington also has some unique strengths. One big opportunity comes from the fact that Seattle is the largest city and port in the continental United States that is closest to Asia. This will not change, and there are a number of different ways that our state should be thinking about how we might build upon this.
This week, I had the opportunity to speak in Uruguay at the 34th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners. This conference brings together leading authorities on privacy from more than 50 countries, including many of the key government officials and regulators responsible for privacy policies around the world. It provides a great opportunity to engage in a dialogue about one of the most important topics facing our industry today. The theme of the conference was “Privacy and Technology in Balance,” a theme that describes well both the challenge we face and how we think about the goal.
In my remarks, I focused on a few key questions. First, does privacy still matter? And second, how has technology changed the nature of privacy? I also talked about the way we all need to come together – the technology industry, advertisers, government, publishers and others – to shape a thoughtful and consistent approach to privacy that respects the needs and expectations of consumers while balancing the many other benefits that today’s technology and use of data can provide.