Microsoft boss Satya Nadella hits out at big tech companies: ‘Privacy is a human right’

Microsoft’s chief executive Satya Nadella has spoken out about the importance of privacy and the ‘responsibility’ of tech companies to build trust.

Speaking at Build, Microsoft’s annual developer conference in Seattle, he said: “Privacy is a human right. We at Microsoft have enshrined a set of principles that ensure we protect this human right.”

Nadella’s comments come after the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal, which fuelled conversations regarding large tech companies’ use of users data. This is especially pertinent as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be coming into force this month, forcing companies to revisit their data privacy laws.

Nadella was vocal in his support for the upcoming regulation: “GDPR is a sound, good regulation and we’ve been working hard to ensure compliance with it by the end of this month,” he said.

Nadella, who has been at the helm of Microsoft for the past four years, went on to say: “We have a responsibility as the tech industry to build trust in technology. We need to ask ourselves not only what computers can do, but what computers should do.”

He also cautioned tech companies on developing technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI), without considering the implications.

Nadella noted the importance of creating an “ethical AI” and that Microsoft has created an ethics board to ensure this is the case. “We have to talk about AI being in the hands of a few companies to AI being everywhere,” he said. At the conference, Nadella also announced that Microsoft are launching a $25 million initiative  called “AI for Accessibility”, to build technology for people with disabilities.

Microsoft is in competition with Amazon and Google to be the leader in internet connected devices. It is attempting to position itself as a responsible, trustworthy company compared to it’s rivals. In an interview with CNBC, Nadella hit out at the two companies’ cloud technology. He argued that trust in Microsoft’s cloud platform will set it apart from Amazon’s AWS and Google Cloud, not just better technology.

He also went on to say that Amazon and Google are both  “fantastic at being able to rig transactions.” and that they can subsidize the market to their advantage, and that the advertising business is “funky”.

Calling out his rivals by name suggests that Nadella is keen to charge ahead with cloud-computing. Other announcements made at the Build conference include partnerships with drone company DJI and chipmaker Qualcomm.