Microsoft seeks law to aid cloud computing

Company makes case for consumer security concerns at Senate hearing

Washington: Microsoft is urging US lawmakers to overhaul laws for electronic privacy to help new services such as cloud computing, a technology that may double sales in five years.

As more data is stored on remote servers and away from personal computers, a 1986 digital law needs to be updated to give consumers confidence their information is protected, Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, said on Wednesday at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington.

“The law needs to catch up,” Smith said after the hearing. Cloud computing is “a critical part of the future and quite central to all that we’re doing.”

Collecting and storing data using remote computer servers, called cloud computing, may generate global sales of $148.8 billion (Dh546 billion) by the end of 2014, up from $58.6 billion last year, according to researcher Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Connecticut. If consumers worry about online security, it could limit the industry’s growth, Smith said in prepared testimony.

Representatives of Google, Amazon.com, software company Salesforce.com and Rackspace Hosting were scheduled to testify on Thursday at a House Judiciary Committee hearing.

Microsoft sells cloud-computing software such as HealthVault, which helps patients manage chronic health conditions by storing data online, and Windows Azure, which lets a company such as Domino’s Pizza manage its orders when demand is high, Smith said. While the US Constitution shields letters and telephone calls from government seizure, data transferred to a third party may lack such protection.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act was passed by Congress in 1986 in an effort to give law enforcement agencies access to information while preserving an individual’s right to privacy.

“We recognise that enterprises and individual consumers will only use new technologies if they have confidence that their information will be reasonably protected,” Smith said in his testimony.

The law provides different levels of protection for electronic messages, he said. E-mails stored for less than 180 days have more protection than older messages. A document stored on a PC’s hard drive has greater protection that a similar item saved on a “cloud,” he said.

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