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Microsoft unveils 217-page book in bid to influence global cloud policy

Microsoft this morning unveiled a book titled “A Cloud for Global Good,” which CEO Satya Nadella called “a set of policy considerations to help guide technologies in the future.” Nadella and Microsoft President Brad Smith announced the new initiative at an event in Ireland, where a case involving customer data on a Microsoft server sparked a high-profile legal battle with the U.S. government.

The 217-page book is available to read online and to download. Nadella brandished what appeared to be a softcover copy of the book while onstage, but a notice that appeared after the execs’ keynotes said the book is “on demand coming soon.”

In addition, Nadella announced that Microsoft has doubled its cloud capacity in Europe over the past year. He said Microsoft has spent more than $3 billion on the cloud in Europe to date, and said the company will open data centers in France starting in 2017. Microsoft’s largest rival in the public cloud, Amazon Web Services, last week announced its own plan to expand into France, as well.

Nadella said Microsoft is building “a global, trusted, intelligent cloud platform.” That message and the policy recommendations in the book appeal to companies and government agencies concerned about data sovereignty, security, compliance and privacy. Microsoft, which competes against AWS, Google and other rivals in the cloud, wants to show that it’s well-positioned to protect customer data.

Smith, who took the stage after Nadella at the livestreamed conference in Dublin, said the book contains 78 policy recommendations about cloud computing, broken into three areas: trust, responsibility and inclusion. While promising to spare conference-goers a recitation of all the book’s recommendations, Smith did summarize its three main areas of focus.

In terms of trust, he said the cloud must preserve personal privacy, limit government access to data and ensure that information online is preserved as carefully as that on paper. He made a reference to Microsoft v. United States, in which an appeals court in July held that U.S. law couldn’t compel the company to produce emails stored on a server in Ireland. Citing a headline saying that decision brought “a great week for the cloud,” Smith emphasized that such freedoms must be guarded and preserved.

Cloud providers must take the responsibility to respect human rights, ensure public safety and preserve the environment by minimizing the impact of power-hungry data centers, he said.

And cloud companies must help users learn the skills to succeed, working alongside governments to achieve that goal, Smith said. Rural communities must be connected, and the disabled must be given equal access to technology.

“We take this step not with the sense we have all the answers but that there are certain tenets that will be served well if we observe them,” Smith said. “Those of us in the technology business need to work together, with clear goals. This new era creates opportunity and challenge, and unless we acknowledge that, we’ll be doing less than we should to move ahead.”

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