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AiThority Interview with Richard Zak, Director of Public Safety & Justice Solutions, Microsoft

Hi Rick, please tell us about your role and the team / technology you handle at Microsoft.

I’m responsible for setting the strategy for supporting public safety agencies in Microsoft’s US State & Local Government business.  Microsoft’s Public Safety & Justice team advises public safety customers, builds out the ecosystem of public safety partners, engages regulators on compliance standards, and works with industry stakeholder groups.

How much has your role evolved through the pandemic months? How did you leverage technology to stay on top of your business?

It was critical for public safety agencies to sustain their operations through the pandemic to help keep communities safe.  Technology played a key role in achieving this – examples include deploying Microsoft Teams to support remote court hearings and mobile solutions for law enforcement agencies connected to the Microsoft Azure Government cloud platform to support their operations.

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Tell us a bit about your partnership with Mark43. How does the partnership benefit customers?

Public safety customers are at the center of the partnership between Microsoft and Mark43.  Through this partnership they can leverage Mark43’s modern, cloud-native solutions to increase their efficiency and effectiveness, deployed on Microsoft Azure Government with its contractual commitment to the same security controls, processes, and background checks that a law enforcement agency would implement in its own data centers.

Data Accuracy is a very relative terminology in data management. What is the most contemporary benchmark used to measure data accuracy?

Data accuracy is critical in every industry but especially in public safety.  One of the best ways to improve data accuracy is to leverage modern, mobile, cloud-native solutions that capture data digitally at the beginning of the data lifecycle.  This reduces the likelihood of errors being introduced when analog written notes are later entered into a digital system.

What kind of expertise / platform capability does a company need to extract the full value from its data?

It starts with a clear understanding of the different data sources within an organization and the purposes for analyzing them – this drives the analysis strategy.  There are many analytical tools available to an organization but more important is having thoughtful policies for providing security and privacy around that data.  For example, law enforcement agencies and the solution partners that support them must adhere to the FBI’s CJIS Security Policy for managing criminal justice information.

To support the security and privacy of peoples’ information the right strategy is to embrace these and other compliance requirements rather than trying to work around them.

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We are slowly moving to first party data economy — what kind of opportunities and challenges do you foresee in this migration to first party data?

Data in public safety agencies is often collected from people when they’re at their most vulnerable and can flow across multiple organizations throughout its lifecycle.  It’s critical that this data be protected at every step and this is achieved by building the appropriate controls, processes, and policies into the platforms and solutions where it will be managed – you can’t just drop in security and compliance later.

Tell us a bit about Microsoft’s recent AI ML initiatives for small scale companies.

Microsoft has developed a broad range of cognitive capabilities that any organization can leverage along with online training.  New companies just getting started can also leverage the Microsoft for Startups program that provides technology and business resources to help them scale.  It’s important to note that with these powerful tools comes an obligation for their responsible use.  Microsoft has developed a Responsible AI framework that any organization can leverage to develop its own policies – its principles are fairness, reliability/safety, privacy/security, inclusiveness, transparency, and accountability.

Your prediction on the future of data security:

The thinking on data security has moved from “trust by default” after implementing security controls to “trust by exception” to match the threat landscape and this will continue into the future.  This “Zero Trust” model assumes breach and verifies every request as if it were coming from outside an organization’s managed network.  As a result there will be less focus on implementing different, disconnected security controls and more emphasis on a comprehensive security platform to identify threats across an organization and respond to them.

Thank you, Rick! That was fun and we hope to see you back on soon.

Richard Zak is the Director of Public Safety & Justice Solutions for Microsoft where he leads initiatives for safer communities and responders. He also serves with a range of public safety organizations including the Communications & Technology Committee for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the CJIS Advisory Committee for the IJIS Institute, and the board for the National Police Athletic/Activities League. Rick holds a BS from the University of Illinois, an MBA from the University of Chicago, and a Masters in Homeland Security from The George Washington University.

At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Our mission is grounded in both the world in which we live and the future we strive to create. Today, we live in a mobile-first, cloud-first world, and the transformation we are driving across our businesses is designed to enable Microsoft and our customers to thrive in this world. We do business in 170 countries and are made up of 144,000 passionate employees dedicated to fulfilling our mission of helping you and your organization achieve more.

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