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Microsoft Beats the Privacy Drum, Again

The latest: A survey showing people really do care about keeping their stuff private.

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Eighty-three percent of American voters agree with a recent Supreme Court decision that police should get a warrant before searching someone’s cellphone, according to the results of a new survey conducted by Microsoft.

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel and executive vice president of legal affairs, took to the company’s Digital Constitution blog to share the results of the survey, which asked participants whether they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements around technology and privacy.

Some other key findings:

  • 64 percent of respondents agree that a person’s private information stored in the cloud should have the same privacy protections as information stored on paper.
  • 79 percent say the federal government should have to respect local privacy laws when trying to search through citizens’ email accounts.
  • 67 percent feel Americans shouldn’t have to give up privacy and freedom for safety from crime and terrorism.

The survey comes just a few weeks after the Supreme Court determined that police need a warrant to look through a suspect’s cellphone during arrests.

As my colleague Amy Schatz wrote at the time: “The justices said that cellphones are different from other property that might be found on a suspect because the devices are so ubiquitous and contain so much personal information.”

Microsoft’s Smith has been blogging regularly about the ruling and other privacy issues, calling it “an important history for privacy that points in this direction and is worth appreciating,” one that can “bring people together to address next-generation privacy issues.”

And last week, in his magnum opus to employees, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella emphasized privacy as a selling point for Microsoft products.

It’s worth nothing that the survey, conducted over a couple days in early July, had a sample size of just 800 registered voters. Seventy percent of respondents said they own a smartphone or cellphone, and for those who like to politicize such things, 31 percent consider themselves Democrats, while 25 percent said they are Republicans (the rest are split or undecided).

And 50 percent of the respondents were not even aware of the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision around cellphone warrants, prior to the Microsoft survey.

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