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Microsoft COO Makes Makes Data Protection Pledge at WPC

Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner on Monday emphasized Microsoft's commitment to the protection of customer data against government spying requests.

Turner made the comments during the opening keynote of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), taking place this week in Washington, D.C. In front of an audience of 16,000 WPC attendees, Turner promised that Microsoft will not provide any government access to customer data, and that the company will fight any government requests to turn over data.

"We will not provide any government with direct unfettered access to customers' data. In fact, we will take them to court, if necessary," Turner said. "We will not provide any government with encryption keys or assist their efforts to break our encryption. We will not engineer backdoors in the products. We have never provided a business government data in response to a national security order. Never. And we will contest any attempt by the U.S. government or any government to disclose customer content stored exclusively in another place. That's our commitment."

Microsoft will notify business and government customers when it does receive legal orders, Turner added.

"Microsoft will provide governments the ability to review our source code, to reassure themselves of its integrity and confirm no backdoors," he said.

Microsoft COO Kevin Turner onstage during the WPC 2014 keynote.

Turner's one-hour speech also covered the progress Microsoft has made for its customers in numerous areas. His talk mentioned the success of Office 365 and Azure; Microsoft's virtualization gains over VMware; and the company's business intelligence efforts, including last year's boost to SQL Server and the release of Power BI, which included its new push into machine learning.

Turner's remarks about customer data protection, however, were perhaps the most well-received out of his entire talk. While Microsoft Chief Counsel Brad Smith has issued a variety of updates and assurances that Microsoft will protect customer data, Turner's public remarks on Monday stepped up the tenor of Microsoft's position on the matter.

While Turner did not address former NSA contractor Edward Snowden by name, his comments were a firm and public rebuke to accusations last year that Microsoft provided backdoors to the government. Turner acknowledged that despite Microsoft's 12-year-old Trustworthy Computing Initiative, its Security Development Lifecycle and a slew of other security efforts, Microsoft both needs and intends to emphasize security further.

"When you think about the cybersecurity issues, there's never been an issue like this past year," Turner said. "It is a CEO-level decision and issue."

Turner talked up Microsoft's existing efforts, including its ISO-standard certifications, operational security assurance Windows Defender, Trusted Platform Module, BitLocker and various point products. He also played up the company's higher-level offerings such as assessments, threat-detection response services and its digital crimes unit.

Microsoft has other security offerings and efforts in the pipeline, Turner hinted. "We will continue to strengthen the encryption of customer data across our network and services," he said. "We will use world-class cryptography and best-in-class cryptography to do so."

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