In a lot of ways, the public is resigned to the fact that almost nothing is truly "private." We're given identification numbers from birth, nearly everything about us is volunteered online, and even our mobile devices have GPS
modules in them. In a lot of ways, those things are worth the hassle, and worth giving up some level of privacy. But secret, unlawful data collection could turn into a larger deal in the future, at least according to Microsoft's general counsel Brad Smith.
Per Smith, we could be looking at a "bleak" future if the privacy of citizens isn't elevated in importance. To quote: "I want law enforcement to do its job in an effective way pursuant to the rule of law. If we can’t get to that world, then law enforcement is going to have a bleak future anyway. It needs to be well-designed regulation, it needs to be thoughtful, it needs to be balanced, but we cannot live in the Wild West when we’re talking about information that is this important to people."
This all refers back to Edward Snowden's revealing that the NSA
was collecting vast amounts of information without really having a great reason to do so. Smith suggests that "by the end of this decade there will be 50 billion devices connected to the Internet of things around the world," and we will "enter a world where every thermostat, smoke detector, fire extinguisher, parking meter, traffic light, garbage can, and you name it, is a connected device." Of course, that last bit isn't evil by itself. People actually want those things, as they provide great utility to one's life.
The issue is when you aren't convinced that those connected devices are secure. If the government has the power to snoop on every piece of data that you use, we could eventually find ourselves even more distrustful of "The Man" than we are now.
It's tough to say if any meaningful change will occur, but it is good to see a company that manages so much data speaking out in favor of the masses. There's obviously a balance to be struck, but it feels like we're a long way from striking it.