July 16, 2024
Microsoft expands Priva suite to tackle evolving privacy landscape

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Microsoft made a bold move today to solidify its position at the forefront of enterprise data privacy and compliance. The tech giant announced a sweeping expansion of its Priva platform, introducing five new automated products to help organizations globally grapple with rapidly evolving privacy regulations.

The stakes for businesses to prioritize data privacy have never been higher. Individuals are demanding more transparency and control over how their personal data is collected and used. Governments are cracking down, drafting stringent new laws like the AI Accountability Act signed last year.

Paul Brightmore, principal group program manager for Microsoft’s Governance and Privacy Platform, framed the challenges, telling VentureBeat, “As we work with our customers to update and modernize their privacy posture, we often see companies taking an incredibly reactive approach to their privacy work.” He added, “It’s very common for us to see that customers have not been able to prioritize knowing what data they have, where exactly it is located, and the conditions around its permissible use.”

Microsoft hopes the new Priva products can shift enterprises from reactive to proactive data privacy operations through automation and robust risk assessment. The AI-powered offerings aim to provide complete visibility into an organization’s entire data estate — no matter where it resides.

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“We are able to supply our customers with the capability to receive data requests from individuals and fulfill that request across any data location, including M365, structured as well as unstructured data, AWS, GCP, and so on,” Brightmore explained.

The expanded family includes Priva Privacy Assessments to automate compliance audits, Priva Privacy Risk Management to detect privacy violations, Priva Tracker Scanning to monitor web tracking technologies, Priva Consent Management for customized user consent models, and Priva Subject Rights Requests to handle data access requests at scale.

“Within our Priva and Purview teams, and within Microsoft Security as a whole, we follow the principle of Privacy by Design,” Brightmore said. “Priva’s automated risk management and assessment features help our customers incorporate privacy practices at the earliest stages but are continually updating through automation to ensure that emerging classifications of data are assessed for new risks.”

The launch represents Microsoft’s latest foray into the burgeoning enterprise AI governance space, following its controversial public disagreement with AI ethics leaders over the responsibility assignment practices in its new AI copilot product. Priva’s AI capabilities around sensitive data identification could raise additional flags from privacy advocates.

When asked about this, Brightmore pointed to a recent Microsoft blog post reaffirming the company’s “commitment to protecting customer privacy in the AI era” through technologies like privacy sandboxing and federated analytics.

For customers struggling to build trust while leveraging AI, Priva offers automated tools to reinforce transparency and accountability for personal data use: “We are able to provide our customers a very broad overview of their privacy posture as well as the ability to drill down into specific areas,” Brightmore stated.

Strategic bet on privacy automation

With fines for privacy violations skyrocketing each year, experts believe solutions like Priva could quickly become mission-critical for data-driven organizations. Microsoft is shrewd in positioning Priva as an all-in-one privacy governance solution for the enterprise. By tightly coupling these capabilities into the Microsoft cloud, they aim to make privacy a key dependency — and major revenue driver — across their product stack.

It’s a smart offensive move to get out ahead of privacy automation before Apple, Google or an upstart beats them to it. Microsoft hopes to make Priva as indispensable for CIOs, CISOs and data officers as Active Directory is for IT admins. Lock enterprises into the Microsoft privacy fabric early, then cross-bundle offerings to drive deeper cloud commitments over time.

That said, integrating disparate privacy tools under one umbrella is a significant challenge, and Microsoft’s track record in this area is mixed. Startups like OneTrust and WireWheel who are privacy-native may prove more nimble. And you can be sure Amazon and Google will counter with their own automated privacy services for multi-cloud estates.

Ultimately though, Priva’s seamless workplace app integrations could be the key differentiator. No matter how slick the tools, employees are more likely to use — and organizations are more likely to mandate — privacy controls that dovetail with their daily workflows in Teams, Outlook and Word. At least for a while, that ubiquity may be impossible for best-of-breed players to fully match.

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