Microsoft president urges action on darker side of tech - Mobile World Live

Microsoft president urges action on darker side of tech

13 JAN 2021

CES 2021: Microsoft president Brad Smith (pictured) warned the technology industry that the world’s eyes were on it regarding taking steps to address the threat of cybersecurity and AI, insisting the only way to protect the future was to understand current dangers.

Smith began his CES 2021 keynote by focusing on Microsoft’s growing data centre presence around the world through its Azure platform, emphasising the amount of data being processed as a result of an insatiable demand for connectivity.

However, he then turned to the “darker side” which comes with increased computing, with new perils arising around cyberattacks.

Smith said governments “quite rightly” were increasingly asking “us as an industry” what they should do, as well as pressing for answers on critical issues spanning privacy, cybersecurity, digital safety and the loss of control people or communities may face as a result of new attacks.

He pointed to two recent examples where the issue has been in the headlines: an attack on US-based software company SolarWinds allegedly by another government; and hackers attacking hospitals, public health sectors and the World Health Organisation during the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

“This is a set of issues that we will need to work with governments to address, and to work with non-governmental organisations to address. But I think it starts with us,” he said. “If we don’t use our voice to call on governments of the world to hold to a higher standard, then I ask you this. Who will?”

AI threat
Smith pointed out while AI is an important technological tool which holds a lot of promise, it was equally important for the industry to create guardrails so humanity remains in control.

He said an event like CES can be dominated by new features and innovations, but people were equally now looking at what safeguards companies like Microsoft are building against the downside of this technology.

Using facial recognition as an example, Smith said people appreciate the convenience when unlocking a phone, but “also worry quite rightly about the perils and the risks it can create for the protection of people’s fundamental rights”.



Kavit Majithia

Kavit joined Mobile World Live in May 2015 as Content Editor. He started his journalism career at the Press Association before joining Euromoney’s graduate scheme in April 2010. Read More >>

Read more