Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith joined the World Affairs Council and moderator Heather Redman on October 18 for a conversation on digital privacy and cybersecurity in today’s world.
In the last few decades the rate of technological advancement has regularly outpaced legislative and regulatory reactions, especially in terms of data privacy. Smith points out that increasingly, people are putting their most trusted information with tech firms, data that can be stolen or misappropriated. So there must be a balance between businesses and government to ensure that protection of privacy and to uphold fundamental human rights. Smith believes that the onus to act ethically and reinforce democratic values lies in the tech firms themselves, especially in the absence of government oversight. He and his team have called for a digital Geneva Convention to determine the rules of cyberwar, much like how the original Geneva Convention aimed to humanize conventional warfare. Smith outlined the two principles he believes should be observed: 1) governments shouldn’t attack civilians or civilian infrastructure with cyber weapons and 2) they shouldn’t interfere in the electoral infrastructure of foreign governments.
Smith was quick to point out that there is no substitute for government leadership, especially in democracies, where the voice of the people provide governments the mandate to rule. However, unlike the previous Geneva Convention, international negotiations in the 21st century now include multi-stakeholders—non-profits, tech firms and governments. He reiterates the need for government to regulate tech companies that no tech firm or company, no matter how large, should be above the law (or monopolize the law). Smith continued to point out that it is the ethical responsibility of companies like Microsoft to proactively create products that will enable more people to join the workforce, rather than be replaced by AI or effective equipment. He cited the example of Microsoft needing to consider worker’s with disabilities when creating their products, for if they don’t, they may render folks who already struggle with employment unemployable.
During Q&A with the audience, Smith responded to questions about Microsoft’s values and their investment in democracies. Smith pointed out that the world is trending towards authoritarianism, especially their markets in Poland, Hungary, and Russia. Instead of sacrificing core values in the company, Smith wants his teams to be crucially aware of operating in such markets. Smith ended the event with wonderful eulogy for Paul Allen and his creation of not only a company but an entire industry. Smith mentioned that among the many things that made Allen remarkable was his commitment to his native city of Seattle and that it “should inspire all of us to build on that legacy and combine that focus of what we can do to connect to the world with what we can do to make our own city better as well”.
This event is part of our Local Leaders on Global Issues series, sponsored by Microsoft.
About the Speaker:
Brad Smith is Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer.
In this role Smith is responsible for the company’s corporate, external, and legal affairs. He leads a team of more than 1,400 business, legal and corporate affairs professionals working in 55 countries. These teams are responsible for the company’s legal work, its intellectual property portfolio, patent licensing business, corporate philanthropy, government affairs, public policy, corporate governance, and social responsibility work. He is also Microsoft’s chief compliance officer. Smith plays a key role in representing the company externally and in leading the company’s work on a number of critical issues including privacy, security, accessibility, environmental sustainability and digital inclusion, among others.
Smith joined Microsoft in 1993, and before becoming general counsel in 2002 he spent three years leading the Legal and Corporate Affairs (LCA) team in Europe, then five years serving as the deputy general counsel responsible for LCA’s teams outside the United States.
Smith has overseen numerous negotiations leading to competition law and intellectual property agreements with governments around the world and with companies across the IT sector. He has played a leading role within Microsoft and in the IT sector on government surveillance, privacy, intellectual property, immigration and computer science education policy issues. He has played a leadership role locally and nationally on numerous charitable, business and legal initiatives. In 2013 he was named by the National Law Journal as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in the United States. In 2014, the New York Times called Smith “a de facto ambassador for the technology industry at large.”
In addition to his work at Microsoft, Smith is active in several civic and legal organizations and in the broader technology industry. In March 2015, Smith joined the Netflix board of directors. He also works to advance several significant diversity and pro bono initiatives, serving as chair of the board of directors of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) and as chair of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD). In addition, Smith chairs the board of the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship program, at the appointment of the governor.
Smith grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin, where Green Bay was the big city next door. He attended Princeton University, where he met his wife, Kathy (also a lawyer), and graduated summa cum laude with a concentration in international relations and economics. He earned his J.D. from the Columbia University School of Law and studied international law and economics at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. Prior to joining Microsoft, he was an associate and then partner at the Washington, D.C.-based firm of Covington and Burling, where he is still remembered as the first attorney in the long history of the firm to insist (in 1986) on having a personal computer on his desk as a condition for accepting a job offer.
About the Moderator:
Heather Redman is Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Flying Fish Partners. She was VP Business Operations & GC at Indix Corporation, Senior Vice President at Summit Power Group and Executive and Senior Vice President at each of AtomShockwave, Inc., Getty Images, Inc., and PhotoDisc, Inc.
Ms. Redman's career has included heading product development and acquisition for Atom, wind power development and project financing for Summit and COO positions. She is experienced in corporate development and finance, business development and intellectual property strategy. While at PhotoDisc and Atom, Heather led the negotiations for the successful sale of these companies and negotiated many acquisitions on the buy side. She was also General Counsel of Getty Images, a publicly traded company, and managed that company's listing on NASDAQ. Ms. Redman is a consummate networker.
Ms. Redman serves on the Boards of Beneficial State Bank (Audit Committee and Technology Committee), Yesler, Inc., the Washington Technology Industry Association (Vice Chair), the Greater Seattle Chamber (Chair), the Hawthorn Club and is a Regent at Washington State University. She is also an investor in TechStars, 9 Mile Labs, Founders' Co-op, Alliance of Angels and Pioneer Square Labs and an advisor to Blokable and iInnovate. She has served on the boards of several privately held companies and many industry associations and non-profit companies as well as on numerous advisory boards.
Ms. Redman is active in local and national policy and politics. She speaks and writes frequently on a variety of topics.
Ms. Redman holds a JD (with distinction) from Stanford and her BA from Reed.
The Boeing Company is an underwriting sponsor of all World Affairs Council Community Programs