Microsoft Receives 14 Data Requests on Suspects in Paris Terrorist Attacks

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Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT) received 14 “lawful” requests for data on the suspects in the terrorist attacks that killed at least 130 people in Paris in November, and responded within 30 minutes on average, according to the Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer of the company.

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During the RSA cybersecurity-industry conference in San Francisco, Smith cited the situation as an example of Microsoft’s ability to respond quickly to provide information on cases related to terrorism if a request complies with proper legal procedure.

Smith used the situation to emphasize and reiterate Microsoft’s support for Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) in its decision to reject the court order requiring it to help the FBI unlock the iPhone owned by one of the terrorists irresponsible in the San Bernardino massacre in December. Last week, he said Microsoft will file a legal brief in support of Apple this week.

Apple argued that helping the FBI bypass the encryption of the iPhone in the San Bernardino case is “bad for America” because could set a legal precedent that could put hundreds of millions of customers at risk and “trample” civil liberties.

The iPhone maker’s CEO Tim Cook explained that the FBI is asking the company to create new software or backdoor, which he described as a “very dangerous operating system.”

Microsoft and other tech companies are willing to help law enforcement

“When it comes to security, there is no technology as important as encryption. Despite the best of intentions, one thing is clear: The path to hell starts at the back door,” said Smith.

Smith used the data requests related to the Paris terrorist attacks to demonstrate that technology companies have methods and are willing to cooperate and help law enforcement in their investigations when laws and privacy are protected.

He previously cited that Microsoft cooperated and turned over information from the e-mail accounts of the Charlie Hebdo attackers within 45 minutes after receiving a valid request in January last year.

Congress needs to update privacy laws

Microsoft Chief Legal Officer Brad SmithDuring a Congressional hearing last week, Smith emphasized that the Congress needs to update the outdated privacy laws. He pointed out that the government is using the All Writs Act, which was passed by Congress in 1911, as a legal argument to force Apple to comply with the court order.  He showed a 1912 adding machine that represented the state of the art in computing devices at the time.

“Put simply, we do not believe that courts should seek to resolve issues of 21st-century technology with a law that was written in the era of the adding machine. We need 21st-century laws that address 21st-century technology issues. And we need these laws to be written by Congress,” said Smith to lawmakers.

Smith reiterated his position and showed the 1912 mechanical adding machine during the RSA cybersecurity-industry conference. According to him, users are losing trust because of the government’s use of outdated laws to gain access to private data, which also hurting technology companies.  He said, “The world is going to trust technology only if the law can catch up.”

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