RSA 2016: Microsoft president discusses DOJ, Irish data centres

Microsoft President Brad Smith
Microsoft President Brad Smith

At a keynote speech during RSA Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith discussed the software giant's ongoing legal battle with the US Department of Justice centered around Microsoft data centres in Ireland.

"Despite the best of intentions, the path to hell starts at the back door, and we need to make sure that encryption technology remains strong," he said to loud applause.

In April 2014, a federal judge ordered Microsoft to comply with a DOJ request to turn over data stored in Microsoft's data centres in Ireland. The US government is seeking the emails of an individual linked to a narcotics investigation. The case is now awaiting an appeals court decision.

Microsoft's legal battle raises some of the same issues brought up by the current dispute between the Justice Department and Apple. Smith quoted Apple founder Steve Jobs during the session, noting that, "Jobs said that every day he aimed to be at the intersection of the liberal arts. We all need to be at this intersection more than ever, because it is a complex world."

Smith announced that Microsoft received 14 lawful orders from authorities following the Paris attacks. "In all 14 lawful requests, we were able to supply the authorities with the information they sought and we did that in an average response time of 31 minutes," he told attendees.

"We believe emphatically that when a government wants to investigate a company, they should go directly to the company and serve a warrant so they can prepare and protect themselves," Smith said. "Cloud computing should not change that balance."

"We do not need technology that is governed by "laws that come from the era of the adding machine" he said.