Microsoft has published its list of the top ten technology issues that the company is monitoring and using its expertise to address in 2018. Among them is data privacy, a cause that is taking the companies legal team all the way to the nation's top court.
The company's lawyers are set to appear before the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 27 to argue their side of the Ireland email privacy case, with a decision expected to be handed down by June. The high-profile case, involving attempts by the U.S. Department of Justice to obtain emails stored in an Irish data center using a search warrant, could have major implications for online services and cloud providers with users overseas.
U.S.-based cloud companies aren't the only ones keeping a close eye on the case. Before the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) takes effect on May 25, 2018, lawmakers on the other side of the Atlantic have been airing their concerns.
"Europe's privacy regulators have called the DOJ's unilateral reach into Ireland 'an interference with the territorial sovereignty of an EU member state.' That type of concern prompted the EU to include a provision in the GDPR to require governments to respect each other's borders and work under international agreements rather than act unilaterally," remarked the authors of the top 10 list, Brad Smith, Microsoft president and chief legal officer and Carol Ann Browne, the company's director of executive communications.
GDPR is a set of stringent data privacy and security regulations that affects businesses that affect businesses that process and store user data belonging to EU citizens, particularly personal identifiable information. The rules apply to companies based outside of the EU if they hold or manage the data of EU citizens. The cost of non-compliance can reach 4 percent of a company's global revenue.
Another major issue that Microsoft is focusing on for 2018 is cyber-security.
From major breaches, weaponized vulnerability exploits to alleged election interference, 2017 was an eventful year in cyber-security. Hoping to avoid a repeat performance in 2018, Smith and Browne teased that Microsoft will have news to share about an industry-backed cyber-security accord that will enable technology companies to act as so-called "internet first responders" when the next WannaCry malware attack surfaces on the internet.
Meanwhile, Microsoft indicates it will continue to invest heavily in artificial intelligence while taking its societal impact into account. Mirroring the workers' concerns that robots are coming for their jobs, the company will be paying close attention to AI's effect on the employment market.
Immigration is also high on Microsoft's list of issues affecting the IT industry. Microsoft is monitoring the U.S. Government's moves on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), travel bans and a "green card backlog," noted Smith and Browne. Other priorities include bridging the digital divide for rural communities, diversity, sustainability, net neutrality, the globalization of the IT sector and programming and computer science in schools.
The full list with commentary from the Microsoft executives is available here.