Microsoft is asking Congress to legislate on cloud computing

Apparently Brad Smith’s mother never told him, “Be careful what you wish for.” Mr. Smith went to Washington yesterday and spoke out in favor of federal laws to support cloud computing.

Smith is a senior vice-president and general counsel at Microsoft, and he was speaking at the Brookings Institution, one of the top think tanks in Washington (it’s led by former deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott and has been credited with influencing the creation of the Marshall Plan and the United Nations, for example). So Smith’s remarks were clearly planned to attract the attention of lawmakers, lobbyists and journalists.

Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith addresses the Brookings Institution

Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith addresses the Brookings Institution

The attention of the federal government is starting to turn toward computer security issues. Google’s complaints about Chinese hackers has led to suggestions from defense insiders that cyber-attacks are an emerging threat to national security.

And in December, the FTC said it is going to study cloud computing and determine if there are privacy issues that should be regulated.

Among the steps Smith called for are an update to the 1980 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, to establish rules on how personal data is protected while it’s sent across networks. And an update to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to raise fines for data center attacks; today, an attack on a data center is treated the same as if the hacker were entering a single PC.

Microsoft has committed about $500 million to building data centers in support of its Azure cloud platform. And it’s re-organized its software development efforts to support the growth of Azure.

As Microsoft shifts from being a publisher of software into being a provider of data services, there will certainly be other efforts to change the competitive landscape in its favor.

You can find atranscript of Smith’s speech in this PDF.

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