Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Wednesday said U.S. government National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance "reform" is necessary for global companies like Microsoft, Intel and Hewlett-Packard to thrive in the future.
"The United States has to take a real approach where we regain that trust," said Nadella, appearing via satellite in a candid wide-ranging discussion with HP CEO Meg Whitman and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich hosted by New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman at the HP Discover conference in Las Vegas. "If you think about HP, Intel and Microsoft, we are global companies and in order for us to be able to thrive in a global world we need our government to be able to have a policy that in fact creates great trust with its own citizens, but also citizens of the world and other nations."
Nadella’s comments on government surveillance reform received a round of applause from thousands of HP Discover attendees.
When asked if he feels Microsoft can look its global customers in the eye and assure them they can trust their data will not be subject to U.S. surveillance, Nadella said there must be some "modicum of law" with regard to how the U.S. government can engage in data discovery and have jurisdiction over data, including data that does not reside in the U.S.
"These are hard challenges and problems that we now need to bring some amount of stability to," said Nadella. "They can't be unknowns because that is what creates the trust issue. Right now I would say it is a cause of friction. All you have got to do is go outside the United States and talk to customers. It is top-of-mind for them. We have to be able to solve that."
Nadella’s comments come only one month after Cisco CEO John Chambers sent a letter to President Barack Obama calling for a new set of rules of the road regarding NSA government surveillance.
Chambers' plea to the president came after the book No Place To Hide by Glenn Greenwald documented that the NSA had intercepted Cisco networking gear to install backdoors for surveillance purposes. "We ship our products from locations inside, as well as outside the United States, and if these allegations are true, these actions will undermine confidence in our industry and in the ability of technology companies to deliver products globally," Chambers wrote.
Krzanich, for his part, said the U.S. government should engage in a global discussion to set new surveillance ground rules and guidelines. "We have a huge opportunity here," he said. "We can change this from a risk to an opportunity if we act quickly and in the right way.
“Rather than pointing fingers or saying it is part of a process that occurs, we have a chance I think to lead here, and as a result our government and our industry would be seen around the world as truly being a leader and truly being open and transparent," said Krzanich.
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