Microsoft's Nadella says privacy is a human right that needs protecting

The software giant's CEO also talks about security and ethics at the company's Build developer conference Monday in Seattle.

Ian Sherr Contributor and Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. As an editor at large at CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
2 min read

Technology has become so pervasive, and the dangers of how it can be used to invade our privacy have become so clear, that Microsoft's  CEO Satya Nadella says it's time for the industry itself to rethink the way its products work.

"We need to ask ourselves not only what computers can do, but what computers should do," he said. "We also have a responsibility as a tech industry to build trust in technology."

Nadella, who was speaking Monday in front of 6,000 attendees at the company's annual Build developer event in downtown Seattle, said that as part of this new approach, the tech industry needs to treat issues like privacy as a "human right."

To make sure it's treated that way, Nadella said Microsoft has formed an "ethics board" to "govern the products we build."

"We have enshrined a set of principles that ensure this human right," he said. 

Nadella's statements come at a time the tech industry is under increasing scrutiny over its handling of people's data. 

Facebook lost control of as many as 87 million users' data to a UK-based political consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, sparking outrage, a #DeleteFacebook campaign and hearings in Congress

Meanwhile, both Apple and Microsoft have taken strong stances on privacy. Two years ago, Apple publicly argued with the FBI over whether it should be forced to hack into a suspected terrorist's phone. And earlier this year, Microsoft fended off US government attempts to access data stored overseas.

Also, a new law in Europe called the General Data Protection Regulation is taking effect later this month, forcing tech companies to change the way their services work in order to comply. Some have even shut off access to Europeans because they couldn't otherwise comply with the law.

"We know this is just the starting point," Nadella said of the law, known as GDPR. "We're never going to be done."

Microsoft Build 2018: CNET's coverage of Microsoft's developer conference.

Cambridge Analytica: Everything you need to know about Facebook's data mining scandal.