Microsoft Occupies Throne on Data Privacy Day

As Data Privacy Day is celebrated today, BigTech companies continue shoving each other for the data privacy throne.  Apple would have you believe it is the one true leader of the data privacy rights movement.  Even though Amazon has recently been moving in the right direction, when it comes to “Data Privacy Day”, only Microsoft makes it a daily event. 

Obviously, all companies benefit by moving towards a better data privacy regime.  As recognized by Mastercard’s Chief Privacy Officer:   “Privacy and accountability are central to our data-driven innovation, and have become key differentiators for our brand. This research reinforces the fact that privacy is a critical investment for forward-looking companies.”

In one of the first studies to estimate privacy returns for companies on a global scale, Cisco’s 2020 Data Privacy Benchmark Study assessed the benefits companies see in areas such as “operational efficiency, fewer and less costly data breaches, reduced sales delays, [and] improved customer loyalty and trust”.   More than 70% of those surveyed indicated they saw  “significant” or “very significant” benefits in each of these areas based on their investments in data privacy initiatives.  As for the actual quantification of these benefits, for every $1 of investment, the average company purportedly received $2.70 of benefit. For Microsoft, this monetary lift does not appear to drive its privacy epiphany.

Seeking to erase years of insecure Windows development contributing to countless data incidents, Microsoft’s newfound focus on data privacy the past five years originates from the very top. It’s privacy head recently testified before Congress exactly because she is a longstanding privacy steward now seeking Congressional help for consumers.  Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella went one step further at the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos by suggesting that consumers obtain compensation for their data:  “Data that you contribute to the world has utility for you, utility for the business that may be giving you a service in return — and the world at large.  How do we account for that surplus being created around data? And who is in control around giving those rights?”  He recognized:  “What if the consumer benefited from their data as well as advertisers? More work needs to be done around data dignity – and new business models in the 2020s.”

This is not to say Microsoft is now rushing to compensate consumers for the use of private data.  Recently, it was uncovered that Microsoft built cancer algorithms using patient data obtained from Providence Health & Services in Renton, Washington.  No report exists of Microsoft compensating patients for this use of their data.  Nevertheless, when it comes to building the brightest path for data privacy there remains no other BigTech company suggesting that consumers be compensated for their data or promotes the use of a decentralized identity for consumers – the likely precursor to any viable “right of compensation” statutory scheme. When it comes time to finally do the right thing, Microsoft will apparently be leading the way to ensure it gets correctly done.