Microsoft Shakes Up Privacy Debate

By Chris Mills Rodrigo, Maggie Miller, Chris Mills Rodrigo, THE HILL – HILLICON VALLEY

November 13, 2019

SHAKE IT UP/OFF: Microsoft shook up the debate over privacy rules with its announcement that the company will follow the principles of California’s tough online privacy law across the U.S.

The tech giant received accolades from privacy advocates and some Democratic lawmakers over its decision on Monday to meet California’s standards in every U.S. state. But Microsoft’s decision could serve as a wake-up call on Capitol Hill, where bipartisan efforts to draw up federal privacy legislation have blown past a slew of deadlines. 

Other tech companies will almost certainly follow Microsoft’s lead, fixing California’s law as the de facto U.S. standard without congressional input, industry watchers said. 

“When one of the biggest tech companies in America voluntarily adopts California’s standard, it’s very likely to become America’s standard,” Jamie Court, the president of California-based Consumer Watchdog, told The Hill. 

Key Democrats in the Senate lauded Microsoft’s decision but said it underlined the need for federally mandated safeguards around what user information companies can collect and what they’re required to share with users about that data. 

“I’m glad to see that there are companies like Microsoft and Apple that continue to take privacy issues very seriously,” Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement to The Hill.

“However, the fact that companies are voluntarily adopting their own standards because of Congress’ lack of action underscores the need for regulators and Congress to get serious about guardrails at the federal level to protect user data and privacy,” he said. “The status quo isn’t working for consumers.” 

Read more on Microsoft’s decision here.

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