After social media giants Facebook and Twitter taking steps to secure elections, tech behemoth Microsoft seems to have joined the bandwagon.
Microsoft on Monday announced a set of new collaboration and productivity services across its apps and the web and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities for Microsoft 365 and others at the company’s annual developers conference in Seattle.
But what really caught the eye was its open-source SDKs and new services, which Microsoft launched to ensure a more secure election process.
In his opening keynote at Microsoft Build, CEO Satya Nadella said,
“As computing becomes embedded in every aspect of our lives, the choices developers make will define the world we live in and Microsoft is committed to providing developers with trusted tools and platforms spanning every layer of the modern technology stack to build magical experiences that create new opportunity for everyone.”
Gearing up for elections
In a statement to the media, Microsoft said, “We believe technology can play a critical role in securing elections and that technology companies have a responsibility to support them”.
Subsequently, it announced the launch of ElectionGuard, and Microsoft 365 for Campaigns.
According to the company, ElectionGuard is a free and open source software development kit that provides security and public verifiability for elections. It also provides guidance and tools to build more accessible voting systems. The company wants developers around the world to build on and integrate ElectionGuard into voting systems of their respective countries.
While existing voting system will remain the same, votes will also be registered on ElectionGuard. A tracking code will then allow the voters to check on it. In a blog post, Microsoft added,
“The ElectionGuard SDK will be available through GitHub beginning this summer. We encourage the election technology community to begin building offerings based on this technology and expect early prototypes using ElectionGuard will be ready for piloting during the 2020 elections in the United States, with significant deployments for subsequent election cycles. Over time we will seek to update and improve the SDK to support additional voting scenarios such as mail-in ballots and ranked choice voting.”
According to the company, it will not charge for using ElectionGuard, and will not profit from partnering with election technology suppliers that incorporate it into their products.
At the same time, Microsoft also said that it plans to launch its enterprise suite Microsoft 365 for Campaigns. Expected to be available from June, this new service will provide the high-end security capabilities of its Microsoft 365 Business offering to political parties and campaigns.
However, this service will only be available for federal office in the US. Further, with this new service, Microsoft is aiming to provide the high-end security capabilities of Microsoft 365 Business offering to political parties and campaigns, as well.
The company said, “Campaigns are critically important to the democratic process, and this offering will make it simple to achieve strong security baseline defaults for a campaign’s most important communications”