Quote of the day—Brad Smith

The pressure to put data centers in more countries is giving rise to what is rapidly becoming one of the world’s most important human rights issues. With everyone’s personal information stored in the cloud, an authoritarian regime bent on broad surveillances can unleash draconian demands to monitor not only what people are communicating, but even what they are reading and watching online. And armed with this knowledge, governments can prosecute, persecute, or even execute those individuals they consider threats.

This is a fundamental fact of life that everyone in works in the tech sector needs to remember every day.

Brad Smith
President and chief legal officer of Microsoft
September 2019
Page 45 in Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age


[One of Barb’s brother-in-laws recommended this book to me a few days ago as we were having a discussion about privacy and security.

I’m only about 20% of the way through the book but I’m really enjoying it. What I’m hearing matches the general tone of the culture when I worked at Microsoft. They take customer privacy seriously.

They have a team of about 50 people that work full time to respond to government requests and push back if the request is out of line with the law. They have promised to go to court rather than comply with requests that don’t have the warrants and documentation all in order. And they have gone to court numerous times. Smith claims they win in court 90% of the time.

I don’t know the details of the level of cooperation my current employer and the government have but I know that on the security side of things we take things very seriously. I also know that, IIRC, we have about 100 full time people who deal with government requests for information. I’ve talked with some of them and they too seem to believe it’s critical to keep the government on the straight and narrow.

I only see the criminal side of things but if we know or suspect customer personal information has been compromised, by either insider or outsiders, we put a stop to it as quickly as possible. And in the past year or two I’ve been seeing names of the people we chased end up in the news as being arrested, prosecuted, and convicted. None of them have been government officials, but that’s probably a little too much to expect.—Joe]

17 thoughts on “Quote of the day—Brad Smith

  1. It all sounds like a slippery slope.

    I suspect that going forward the only safe assumption is to assume that somebody is watching and manipulating. And that somebody does not have to be the government – it could be your bank or a political party. We already know that Google is watching and manipulating. Likewise for other big tech.

    • Read the book. Big tech is not all alike. He doesn’t do much more than mention it and express some disappointment, but Amazon, Apple, and Google did not support privacy agreements Microsoft, Facebook, and many others signed on to.

  2. Every bit of data we allow someone else to hold and or store for us is a part of our life we have lost control of. It is a certainty that access to our data will be abused.

    • TOR isn’t a secure as you might think. Also, at my company we routinely track use of known TOR IP addresses (the list is updated about every 15 minutes) and subject those connections to greater scrutiny.

      • Sure, but given that they are encrypted and the final destination isn’t visible in the addressing, what would that tell you?

  3. Many years ago I owned an ISP. One day I got a subpoena from the US Customs demanding a boatload of records connecting IPs to users. This is back when people used dial up. Every time you dial in you would get an IP allocated from a pool of IPs. Thus you could not track an IP to a person directly.

    I took the subpoena to my lawyer and was told I had to honor it. I called and tried to get the “boat load” reduced to “targeted”. The people at the other end refused.

    I asked how they wanted the data, would Fax be ok?

    “yep” was the answer. So I sent them the data the requested. 5000 pages of connection records, in random order. The fax modem ran for days.

    I never heard back from them again.

    (Given why they wanted what they wanted, I would have happily helped, but they wanted to wide of a collection)

  4. The info is extremely useful to governments- but not in the manner we are told it will be- they do not sift to find a “terrorist”- they observe a “problem”, usually a political threat, and then use the data to compromise it. Remember the Clinton’s first move on taking the white house?- grabbing all the files on politicians? Same thing, only digital. This works great on individuals. It is utterly useless on a crowd sourced insurrection, like in Hong Kong- and since it is after the fact, it is also utterly useless against people who don’t care if they are caught, like jihadists.

  5. This seems appropriate. Kind of long, and occasionally sort of rambly, but interesting. Go to the beginning.
    https://youtu.be/yy9N48U9axc

    (as useful as it is sometimes, I hate youtube. you should start at the beginning, but not matter what I do it wants to only copy the point where I left off watching it – not just last time (or I’d rewind to the beginning), but letting it play through. Too dam smart to just let me link to the damn thing)

  6. “Smith claims they win in court 90% of the time.”

    That brings up an interesting, and tragic, situation in the world. Defensive holding actions must be always 100% successful, for otherwise we’re on a trend toward 100% failure.

    The authoritarians use the tactic of “throw a ton of feces against the wall with the understanding that some portion of it will stick”. If they get their way only 1% of the time! it means they’re always on the way toward total victory! Their corrupting influence is always at work, and so we’re on the path toward certain failure.

    The Republican Party, the NRA, and nearly all organized religions operate under this system of perfectly guaranteed failure. Furthermore, they will have it no other way!

    The alternative to guaranteed failure is zealous, unyielding fundamentalism, and we’ve all been thoroughly, successfully trained to reject anything which even resembles it. Thus there is only one way this can go.

    The tactics we’re using (centered around the doctrine of “compromise as virtue”) were instilled in us by the enemy. As an already thusly compromised society we could fight for all we are worth (as though it were our only, full time job), committing all of our resources to it, and achieve at best some high percentage success rate which is less than 100%, thus always losing some of our “territory” on a never-ending basis. The asymptotic trend line in that scenario represents an inextricable, minimum loss rate, as more precipitous losses are always possible while the enemy is encamped among us.

    All the above represents the very definition of Progressivism, by the way, and so we are all intimately familiar with it as a way of life spanning generations. So we are all Progressives now, either by informed choice, by an ignorant longing to fit in, or by a begrudging capitulation.

    So it is that we carry the Mark of the Beast EITHER on our forehead, OR on our hand. It works either way. Everyone is welcome to Babylon, and to certain destruction.

    • I’d like to hear your narrative on concealed and constitutional carry. Particularly with this claim:

      The Republican Party, the NRA, and nearly all organized religions operate under this system of perfectly guaranteed failure. Furthermore, they will have it no other way!

      • I would say that partial, apparent successes can be steps toward failure, but until it’s proven beyond all shadow of doubt there’s always an argument against that.

        While the enemy is firmly ensconced in our midst, and is given title, and “educates” our children, it could be said that whatever apparent “defeats” they are handed, they’re still winning.

        Anyway, I’m not here to prove anything, but to flesh out a concept (winning 90% or 99.9% means you’re always losing), which is valid, and to say these things in advance, so that when they are later proven, some people will have a change of heart and direction.

        I could play the same sort of card, asking how many violators of the constitution have been convicted on that basis and sent to prison lately. Logically, until that number, which is now effectively if not absolutely zero, reaches a majority of violators, regardless of their title or station, we’re in the process of losing the nation.

        But any such argument would be fruitless. What is happening will continue. The Beast will have its hour of total domination.

  7. Hmm; if knowledge is power and if power corrupts, then total knowledge leads to totally corrupt, absolute power.

      • Sounds ludicrous doesn’t it. I point out that I did say “if” and that I didn’t make any of this up, but merely extrapolated.

        • You do bring up an interesting point though. In this corrupted world it’s probably even true.

          That’s where the concept of the Messiah comes in. There can’t be a loving God, and a corrupted world we all have to contend with, and perfect mercy and perfect justice, all at the same time.

          It makes no sense at all until Christ is introduced to the world. Then the path to total victory over evil is made clear and logical, if still a bit scary.

      • Or perhaps absolute belief, even without understanding, in God (assuming the correct god, for some value of “correct”).

        I find it fascinating how many things I’ve come across in the last couple of years that point the same direction.

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