If a tech person told you he only uses open-source software and hasn't carried a cell phone in two years because of privacy concerns, would you think he was a tinfoil-hat-wearing paranoid? What if that person was Caspar Bowden, the chief privacy adviser in the Worldwide Technology Office at Microsoft from 2002 until 2011?
Bowden spoke yesterday at Monday's all-day Congress on Privacy & Surveillance held at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, and The Guardian was there. The British paper, which has been at the heart of the ongoing reporting on the National Security Agency's Prism program and other surveillance activities, reveals Bowden's switch to open-source software and non-use of a mobile phone, and, most notably, quotes him as saying, "I didn't know about Prism when I was at Microsoft and I don't trust Microsoft now."
Prism has clearly left him disillusioned. Read The Guardian's reports -- the first a live blog of the conference, the second a post focusing specifically on the former Microsoft executive -- for more details, but for now I'll leave you with this key quote from the Bowden:
The public now has to think about the fact that anybody in public life, or person in a position of influence in government, business or bureaucracy, now is thinking about what the NSA knows about them. So how can we trust that the decisions that they make are objective and that they aren't changing the decisions that they make to protect their career? That strikes at any system of representative government.
By the way, in his bio on Twitter (where he retweeted a link to The Guardian's live blog yesterday), you'll find this clause:
ex-Chief Privacy Adviser MSFT (hey, I tried)
Meanwhile, I just checked, and this "Your Privacy is Our Priority" ad for Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which I called attention to back in June, is still somehow on YouTube:
If you view it directly on YouTube, you'll see that "Comments are disabled for this video."
Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. Follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.