Privacy and NSA spying are hot topics hitting the world scene. With everyone calling for reforms, Microsoft Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith is the latest reach out for an international discussion on the issues.
The legal chief wrote a plea for help at the World Economic Forum to develop "an international legal framework" that will "create surveillance and data-access rules across borders."
Smith began the blog post applauding President Obama’s recent actions reforming NSA phone spying and the ending wiretaps on foreign leaders. But he also noted the world needs to regulate how intelligence is obtained across countries.
Pointing to the new NSA rules that protect US citizens, the same restrictions don’t apply to individuals from other countries. While there’s a demand for customer data from governments around the world and as technology is more ubiquitous than ever, Smith says the privacy concerns must be discussed on a global level.
A faster but legal process
At the international gathering of politicians, businesses, and intellectuals on Wednesday Smith hopes the conversation will revolve around human rights and individual privacy.
"[T]he convention should ensure that governments seek information about the private citizens of the other participating countries only pursuant to legal rules and due process," Smith wrote.
Smith equates these digital rights to the American fourth amendment and English common law that dictates permits are needed for search and seizure. The hope is creating effective permit requirements will encourage governments to process data legally rather than sidestep courts and mine data by covert means.
Multilateral privacy checks
Currently governments still rely on the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, an international legal processes created in the 1800’s, which already presents a number of legal hurdles. With an updated framework, law officers could get timely access to data while ensuring privacy protections for individuals.
"[I]f the authorities in one country believe there is a threat that needs to be investigated by accessing data about private citizens in another country, they could use this new, streamlined process to seek this information," Smith explained.
"They would need to respect the legal rules and safeguards in this second country, including measures that ensure that the requesting government adheres to established due process standards."
To keep all governmental parties happy, the new system would require data miners to respect the rights of suspect where they currently reside. At the same time, the new policy could enhance transparency where everyone knows how their rights and how their information is being accessed.
Beyond individuals, US tech companies could be more open to bringing their services abroad knowing they’ll have customer protections.
"Clearer rules for access to data internationally would help open borders and enable companies to host services and data in one country for citizens in another," Smith said.
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