As Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith leads a team of more than 1,500 business, legal and corporate affairs professionals located in 54 countries and operating in more than 120 nations. He plays a key role in spearheading the company’s work on critical issues involving the intersection of technology and society, including cybersecurity, privacy, artificial intelligence, environmental sustainability, human rights, immigration and philanthropy. In his recent bestselling book, co-authored with Microsoft’s Carol Ann Browne, Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age, Smith urges the tech sector to assume more responsibility and calls for governments to move faster to address the challenges that new technologies are creating. The New York Times has called Smith “a de facto ambassador for the technology industry at large” and The Australian Financial Review has described him as “one of the technology industry’s most respected figures.” He has testified numerous times before the U.S. Congress and other governments on these key policy issues.
Smith joined Microsoft in 1993, first spending three years in Paris leading the legal and corporate affairs team in Europe. In 2002, he was named Microsoft’s general counsel and spent the following decade leading work to resolve the company’s antitrust controversies with governments around the world and companies across the tech sector. Over the past decade, Smith has spearheaded the company’s work to advance privacy protection for Microsoft customers and the rights of DREAMers and other immigrants, including bringing multiple lawsuits against the U.S. government on these issues.
Prior to joining Microsoft, Smith was an associate and then partner at the law firm of Covington and Burling, where he is still remembered as the first attorney in the long history of the firm to insist (in 1986) on having a personal computer on his desk as a condition for accepting a job offer. In addition to his work at Microsoft, Smith is active in several civic organizations and in the broader technology industry. He has served on the Netflix board of directors since 2015 and chairs the board of directors of both Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) and the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship program.
Smith grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin, where Green Bay was the big city next door. He attended Princeton University, where he met his wife, Kathy. He earned his J.D. from Columbia University Law School and studied international law and economics at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, Switzerland. He can be followed on Twitter and LinkedIn.
As digital business is one of the fastest-growing areas internationally, will the economic stakes prove just as important as the political ones? Will the rapid growth of the digital economy become a decisive factor in finding a common ground in the digital policy between the EU and the US? (on transatlantic data flows, but also other issues such as AI regulation, anti-trust cases against big tech etc.) What should be the key principles behind the next generation of laws ruling the digital sphere?
While data transfers are at the heart of the transatlantic economy, they have long been plagued by Europe’s doubts about privacy protections in the US. In July 2020, the EU Court of Justice ruled that the EU-US Privacy Shield did not offer adequate protection for data of EU citizens when shipped overseas because of the intrusive nature of the US surveillance laws.
The verdict heavily affected the $7.1 trillion data transfer relationship between the US and the EU. The ruling touched more than 5,300 companies whose business models were based on data transfer from the EU, including many tech giants.