Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella: Tech companies need to defend privacy as a human right

Key Points
  • Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella called privacy a "human right" in a keynote speech Thursday in London.
  • Nadella said Europe's new data laws set a worldwide standard for protecting privacy.
  • Apple CEO Tim Cook also praised Europe's data privacy rules last week and called for similar laws in the U.S.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
Source: Microsoft

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella voiced his support for privacy as a "human right" and called on tech companies to protect users from cyber threats in a keynote address Thursday.

Speaking at the Microsoft Future Decoded conference in London, Nadella said the tech industry and governments need to collectively consider the unintended consequences of every business becoming a digital company. He highlighted three major considerations: privacy, cybersecurity and AI (artificial intelligence) ethics.

"All of us will have to think about the digital experiences we create to really treat privacy as a human right," Nadella said.

Nadella praised Europe's new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that sets stringent privacy standards for any company with business in the EU. Apple CEO Tim Cook also recently applauded the law, calling for similar federal privacy regulation in the U.S.

"GDPR as a piece of legislation, a piece of regulation is a great start," Nadella said. "We think about it as something that sets the standard, the bar, for how people need to think about privacy worldwide."

Tech CEOs like Nadella and Cook are getting increasingly vocal about their support for regulation amid ongoing data privacy concerns. In a speech in Brussels last week, Cook blasted tech companies saying personal information is being "weaponized against us with military efficiency."

Nadella said common citizens and small businesses are most vulnerable to cyber threats.

"We need to use our collective prowess and power to protect these most vulnerable of populations, and it requires not just our industry but also nation states to be part of that," he said.

Nadella added companies need to develop ethical standards around AI. He said Microsoft and other technology creators have a responsibility to tackle the unexpected consequences of this new technology.

"When you have some AI capability and it's trained for one purpose but used for another purpose, that's an unethical use of it," he said.

Apple backs federal privacy laws in the US, says Tim Cook
Apple backs federal privacy laws in the US, says Tim Cook