Jeff Bullwinkel | Associate General Counsel Microsoft Europe


  1. Who is Jeff ? And what do you do?

It’s a long way from New York to Amsterdam, particularly when the journey twines through Asia. That’s how I recently arrived in The Netherlands to take on the role of Associate General Counsel for Microsoft Europe, based in our Schiphol offices.

In that capacity, I’m responsible for Corporate, External and Legal affairs (CELA) work for Microsoft’s subsidiaries in Europe, which together account for our second largest market.  Thankfully, I am not alone and am fortunate to lead a terrific team of 200 legal and corporate affairs professionals across 14 countries.  We’ve got a pretty broad remit that includes supporting our commercial business across the region; advancing the company’s public policy priorities; and managing our corporate social responsibility initiatives.

Our team also includes a Digital Crimes Unit that’s wholly dedicated to investigating and combatting cybercrime, and that’s a particularly important investment in an era of increasing concerns about cybersecurity.

Prior to joining the Europe team, my family and I lived in Asia for 17 years, where I worked for Microsoft in various roles and was based at different times in Hong Kong, Sydney and Singapore. In my most recent position, I led the CELA team for Asia Pacific and Japan. My long relationship with Asia began while I was still in the US, where I started my career as a securities lawyer in private practice in New York.  In 1996, an interest in public service motivated me to join the US Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, which is charged with negotiating and implementing bilateral and multilateral treaties on extradition and mutual legal assistance in criminal matters.

  1. When did you arrive in The Netherlands and what did you learn up to now about the Dutch culture or what stroke you as being different/funny/weird/great?

I moved to Amsterdam from Singapore in late August.  I had high expectations of what it would be like to live in The Netherlands, and they’ve already been exceeded.  Most of all that’s because of the people.  Living in Southeast Asia for as long as I did, you’re bound to have lots of Dutch friends, and in fact I used to belong to the Hollandse Club in Singapore (and have a closet full of orange sports gear).  So, I already knew the Dutch to be remarkably progressive, tolerant and inclusive – in addition to having a great sense of fun.  But it’s those qualities of inclusiveness and tolerance – qualities that are more important than ever in today’s world – that somehow seem magnified when you’re actually living here, and I appreciate the warm reception I’ve received.  I also feel incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by the richness of life in Amsterdam, with its stunning array of art, culture and food.  If you ask me what I like most about my life here, I’ll confess that my new bike would be high on the list.  It’s a handsome black Azor – no gears, only a foot break, and a big red bell – and I’m as proud of this bike as of the first two-wheeler I got when I was a kid.  My ability to multi-task while cycling through The Jordaan is admittedly pretty limited.  But I’m only just getting started here and have lots to learn about this wonderful country and its people – naturally, “The UnDutchables” is at the top of my holiday reading list!

  1. Could you tell us more about your current professional challenges?

As an in-house lawyer at Microsoft, I have been privileged to work on a broad swathe of fascinating and challenging issues in the technology industry over the years.  Never has that been truer than at the present, as we are seeing unprecedented and sometimes disruptive technological change impacting our lives and transforming the way we live and work.  That includes the increasingly rapid adoption of cloud services in Europe and the evolution of cutting-edge developments in such areas as AI and Mixed Reality.  A top priority for us is helping our customers navigate the journey toward digital transformation in a way that will increase cybersecurity, respect the privacy of personal data and comply with applicable regulations.  The scenarios can be complex and implicate laws in a rapidly evolving policy environment, creating an opportunity for us to partner with our customers’ in-house lawyers and outside advisors like never before.  Our goal is to ensure our customers can embrace cloud services that will meet legal requirements – and by extension we’re also focused on supporting public policy frameworks that help, rather than hinder, the adoption of cloud-based technologies.  As you might expect, we’ve found that customers in highly regulated industries such as financial services and healthcare proceed, appropriately, with a measure of caution.  At the same time, the value proposition is so compelling that, even there, the move to cloud services is well underway.  Nonetheless, complex and interesting emerging issues relating to, say, cybersecurity and the ethics of AI, promise plenty of challenges in the coming months for lawyers in the tech sector.

  1. Microsoft and GDPR: what kind of challenges are there in regard to the implementation of the new GDPR rules?

With the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on the horizon, our customers and partners are rightly focused on getting ready for the new regulation to come into force in May.  There are a number of things organizations need to be doing to get ready – from identifying the data that’s covered, to managing and protecting the data concerned as well as reporting problems.  As a company, we have been engaged extensively and for some time have been supporting customers and partners on this journey of shared responsibility in helping them to meet the requirements of GDPR.  Unquestionably, this calls for a collaborative approach between organizations and their cloud providers in fully understanding respective roles and responsibilities and working towards a plan to achieve full GDPR compliance.  In this recent LinkedIn article, I address these issues in some detail, in relation to both data controllers and data processors.

If you would like to learn even more, I’d encourage you to check out these additional materials and resources: