While many big tech companies are reticent about the seemingly inevitable tide of privacy regulations headed our way, Microsoft has made a point of inviting them.
On Tuesday, the software giant sent Julie Brill, its general counsel for privacy and regulatory affairs, to Olympia, Wash. to support a new bill that would regulate customer data use and facial recognition technology.
Brill told the Washington State Senate Committee on Environment, Energy & Technology that the bill “represents a thoughtful approach taking the best provisions from European law, from California’s law, and indeed from some federal laws.”
It was the first public hearing on a new bill that would regulate how companies with personal information on more than 100,000 Washington customers manage that data. The bill would allow consumers to access, correct, and delete the data held by those companies and require data processors to do regular risk assessments. It would also establish new regulations for companies creating facial recognition technology, like Microsoft and Amazon.
Previously: Washington state considers new privacy law to regulate data collection and facial recognition tech
“I believe it’s fitting that here in Washington state, where so many of the technologies that are changing the world are being developed, that the Washington state legislature has the historic opportunity to adopt privacy laws that will protect consumers in this state and help define privacy protection in ways that will influence privacy law throughout the United States … I would urge you not to miss this opportunity,” Brill said.
Brill has spent most of her career steeped in regulatory issues. Before joining Microsoft, Brill spent six years on the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. She was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2010.
Washington Technology Industry Association CEO Michael Schutzler joined Brill at the hearing. He also applauded the legislature’s efforts but he asked that the state give companies more time to comply with the new regulations. The law would take effect Dec. 31, 2020 under the current iteration of the bill. Schutzler asked to extend that date to July 2021.
He also noted that while 100,000 customers may seem like a large number, many smaller companies arrive at that threshold faster than they anticipate.
“It’s entirely possible to have 100,000 customers and not be ready as a company to really deal with it,” he said.
Washington Sen. Reuven Carlyle, the bill’s sponsor, pushed back on that notion.
“We live in a time when perhaps a company should be prepared for managing 100,000 customers data in a responsible way,” he said.