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  • Human Rights Research Center

Microsoft's New Data Center in Saudi Arabia Will Put Human Rights at Risk

May 23, 2023

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Royal Court, in Riyadh, on January 14, 2019. [Image credit: Andrew Cabellero-Reynolds/Pool via AP]

Cited article by Human Rights Watch

HRRC joins 18 human rights organizations in calling on Microsoft to halt its plan to open a data center in Saudi Arabia. Microsoft must conduct a comprehensive due diligence process to ensure human rights are and will be protected and respected, including the right to privacy and data protection, before moving forward with its plans.

Article Summary

Numerous international human rights organizations submitted a letter urging Microsoft to suspend its plan to open a cloud data center in Saudi Arabia until it can demonstrate how it will address the potential rights abuses. Saudi Arabia has a very poor human rights record along with a history of accessing technology to spy on human rights activists, using spyware against critics of the government, and having extremely broad anti-cybercrime and data protection laws.

Under its current anti-cybercrime law, the “production, preparation, transmission, or storage of material impinging on public order, religious values, public morals, or privacy” is criminalized, but is extremely broad and thus could be used by the government to force Microsoft to hand over personal data on people accused of such charges. Given the absolute power of the Saudi government to access personal data, Microsoft would be forced to comply with the orders, putting Microsoft in a position where it is unable to uphold its responsibilities under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.


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