Microsoft CEO: Data privacy must be thought of as a human right

Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Satya Nadella said on Thursday that data privacy at an individual level needs to be thought of as a human right, and pointed to the European Union’s GDPR regulation as a model for the rest of the world.

“In some senses, Europe has taken the lead with GDPR and has even effectively regulated that. In our case, we took that regulation and we are in fact hoping to see more of a federal standard in the United States and in the world over,” Nadella said.

READ MORE: Google CEO Sundar Pichai says ‘privacy cannot be a luxury good’

“And in fact we have taken some of the subject rights of GDPR and made them available worldwide.”


Data privacy has to be protected and companies need to be “transparent” about it, he said, speaking during an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Satya Nadella, Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft, attends a session at the 50th World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 23, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Photo: Denis Balibouse/Reuters

Noting that there was surplus value created when a user gives their data to a company, Nadella called for further work on the concept of “data dignity”, which he said went one step further than privacy.

“Data that you contribute to the world has utility for you, utility for the business that may be giving you a service in return — and the world at large. How do we account for that surplus being created around data? And who is in control around giving those rights?”

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“It’s not just ‘privacy’ and ‘oh, I give away my data’. I should be able to control in a much more finer-grained way how my data is being used to create utility for me and the world and the causes I care about.”

Nadella’s remarks follow similar comment by Google (GOOG) CEO Sundar Pichai at the forum on Wednesday. Pichai said that privacy cannot become a “luxury good,” and said that his company had pointed to the European Union’s GDPR regulation as a template for other similar privacy laws around the world.