Microsoft exec emphasizes data security during UWM speech

A man stands at a podium delivering a speech.

As our use of technology advances seemingly at the speed of light, so too must our concern for how that data is used and collected, Microsoft executive Raghu Ramakrishnan told an audience at UW-Milwaukee.

“You must use data in a way where you respect the ownership rights,” Ramakrishnan, Microsoft’s chief technology officer for data, said in his keynote address Thursday at the Milwaukee Engineering Research Conference. “It’s like building the atom bomb without thinking of the consequences.”

The annual conference, which started in 2016, brings together industry, academia and federal agencies at UWM for technical discussions to advance the nation’s research enterprise.

Wherever people are using data and the internet — whether it’s students storing their work in the cloud, email users employing Microsoft’s Office 365 platform or info seekers using Bing or Google — data governance and security must follow, Ramakrishnan said.

“Data is sensitive. The most important data is especially sensitive,” Ramakrishnan said. “Data about your usage of the web, which is what we (Microsoft) are spending so much energy to protect, pales in comparison to your finance documents. It pales in comparison to your DNA. It pales in comparison to your health records.”

People are concerned. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, 91 percent of Americans surveyed agree that they have lost control over how their personal information is collected.

“The world around us is changing and changing rapidly,” said Ramakrishnan.

From change comes adapting, Ramakrishnan said. Technology giants such as Microsoft must listen to consumer concerns and adhere to industry standards to keep up with this rapid pace of evolution. Ramakrishnan also noted that even the work at Microsoft, one of the world’s leading technology companies, isn’t always perfect the first time.

Through the cycle of “observe, learn and improve,” data management can be tackled. “You must analyze what went well, what didn’t go so well, and do better the next time. This cycle isn’t limited to Microsoft,” Ramakrishnan said.

Though there are dangers, the benefits of technology innovation can be immense. “Data can be used to make some facets of our world infinitely more appreciated. But we must do so in a way that also makes the world a safer place to be,” Ramakrishnan said.

Ramakrishnan’s speech was a part of the first day of the Milwaukee Engineering Research Conference, held at the UWM Student Union. As the UWM College of Engineering & Applied Science partners with the UWM Connected Systems Institute, the future of connectivity was at the forefront of the conversation.

Ramakrishnan was joined by Adel Nasiri, interim executive director of the UWM Connected Systems Institute, and Lyman Tschanz, vice president of Connected Enterprise Consulting at Rockwell Automation, as keynote speakers.

Top Stories