Of all the sexy growth stories vying for attention in the tech sector, none is as boldly opportunistic as Microsoft’s (MSFT) new effort to tap into growing global outrage over spying by the National Security Agency.
In an unprecedented move, Microsoft is now offering its customers abroad to choose where they would like to have their data stored, and comes as the backlash over U.S. surveillance operations intensifies.
“People should have the ability to make an informed choice of where their data resides," said Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith yesterday.
As my co-host Jeff Macke and I discuss in the attached video, the action by the software giant may be the first of its kind, but is surely won’t be the last. In fact, by getting a jump on its industry rivals, Microsoft is making a shrewd business decision that could pay off in spades.
In addition, Microsoft’s pushback comes on the very same day that the government’s new privacy watchdog is set to release a report that calls the NSA’s indiscriminate data gathering illegal, scarcely effective and calls for it to be closed down.
So far, President Obama and anti-terrorism operatives have given almost no ground in the face of public protestations over the program. As recently as last week, the President sought to soothe concerns in an address to the nation on the issue, but polls show what little he offered in the form of concessions or curtailment did nothing to sway opinion.
In fact, a new poll from USA Today shows a majority of Americans are against the President on the surveillance program and have little confidence that policies will be changed. One can only presume that an equally large number of non-Americans are opposed to it as well, which is why Microsoft is stepping up to meet demand.
To be fair, even if Microsoft - or other companies - start to house more data offshore, it would seem at best to be ineffective given the NSA’s widely reported foreign data collection operations in places like Brazil and Europe. There’s also the unsettling reality that the government can always demand access to the data if and when it feels the need.
“What the government has done is to create a market opportunity for companies to go offshore with this data,” Macke declares. “It’s a curious turn of events.”
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