Microsoft’s Nadella takes on privacy fears about LinkedIn, Cortana

Microsoft’s increasing role as a data aggregator gets attention at Gartner’s conference

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella faced sharp questions from Gartner analysts Tuesday about the privacy-invading implications of its $26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn, and its all-knowing virtual assistant, Cortana.

Helen Huntley, one of the Gartner analysts questioning Nadella at a conference here, was particularly pointed about the fears.

Cortana, said Huntley, "knows everything about me when I'm working. She knows what files I'm looking at, she knows what I'm downloading, she knows when I'm working, when I'm not working," she said.

Cortana is "big brother intersected ... with productivity," said Huntley.

Nadella countered this with his own question. "How does one build trust in technology?" He called it one of the "most pressing issues of our time."

Cortana will operate on "four pillars," which include keeping data secure, as well transparency, meaning that users will "know exact what Cortana knows," said Nadella. There is also an ability to turn off data access. The fourth pillar is to be compliant with regulations, he said.

Nadella was appearing via video link from Microsoft's Redmond headquarters at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo before a crowd that includes 8,000 attendees. He was scheduled to appear in person, but a back injury kept him from flying.

"When you turn 49 don't act 19 in the gym," said Nadella, to the chuckles of an audience of people mostly in their middle years as well.

With LinkedIn, Huntley, who was asking questions in tandem with fellow analyst Chris Howard, was pointed once again: "What are you going to do to our data?"

"We are just custodians of that data," said Nadella. The only data the company has access to is when users allow it for the purpose of adding value to it, he said.

For instance, Nadella said, that someone can be much more informed about who they are meeting with if their calendar includes LinkedIn profile links of meeting attendees. A user's news feed can also be shaped to include information about meeting participants. "Those are natural points of integration," he said.

This ability to integrate with LinkedIn, said Nadella, "will not be exclusive of Microsoft but available to everyone." Allowing integration will help make LinkedIn grow, he said.

Nadella defended Microsoft as an open company. "Windows is the most open platform there is," he said.

But asked how Microsoft will work with competitors on platforms including Azure, Nadella turned philosophical. That knowledge "comes maybe with middle age" -- a point at which one becomes "comfortable with what I would say are complex relationships." A gentle laugh rolled through the audience.

Nadella, in response to questions about how A.I. will interact with users, talked about Microsoft's pursuit of A.I. but not the specifics.

"There is still a dark side," said Howard, of A.I.; "there is a risk of an over-mediated life."

But, as he did with privacy, Nadella worked to calm concerns and said A.I. will augment human capability, not replace it.

"It looks like that they have a vision for the future," said one attendee, Steve Edmonson, a CIO with Chicago governmental organization he didn't want identified. But with respect to A.I., Nadella didn't talk about "where that is really headed."

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Microsoft

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Patrick Thibodeau

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?