Microsoft's European CTO has called for a more mature debate on the data snooping practices of governments, labelling the current methods security services such as the NSA and GCHQ are using as "ridiculous".
Responding to audience questions on the topic at the Westminster eForum event on Thursday, Stephen McGibbon said that the debate had been "thrown to extremes" and that while using data to foil terrorists was necessary, it was not being handled correctly.
"A lot of people - and I'm agreeing with these people - agree that this wholescale slurping of data is ridiculous but they also agree that there needs to be some mechanism to be able to get information in order to catch terrorists."
"What's missing from the debate at the moment is the thing that allows us to meet in the middle. My personal opinion is there's a lack of maturity in the debate at the moment about the powers the estate has had in the past, why the estate has those powers and how they should exercise them."
Microsoft has found itself at the centre of the PRISM scandal - accused early on of providing "back-door" access for governments to access customer data, a claim the firm has repeatedly denied. Microsoft joined various technology companies over the course of the summer, petitioning and then suing the US government in a bid to bring greater transparency to the process of handing over requested customer data.
Last month, Microsoft revealed the extent to which it hands over user data to governments around the world, with only a small portion of user data going beyond basic account data such as email and IP addresses. In only a minority of cases, Microsoft handed over data such as chat logs and email exchanges.
However, due to US government legislation, the firm was unable to provide numbers on requests instigated by national security orders, thereby rendering US request numbers less informative.
On Tuesday, MI5 director general Andrew Parker labelled fears over blanket surveillance as "utter nonsense", saying internet monitoring is vital for thwarting terrorist threats.
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