Caspar Bowden, the former chief privacy adviser to Microsoft, has said that he does not trust the software giant and has recommended switching to free and open-source software instead.
Speaking at a privacy conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, Bowden said that the extent of internet monitoring perpetrated by the US National Security Agency (NSA) in collusion with intelligence agencies in the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand was already undermining democracy.
"The public now has to think about the fact that anybody in public life, or person in a position of influence in government, business or bureaucracy, now is thinking about what the NSA knows about them. So how can we trust that the decisions that they make are objective and that they aren't changing the decisions that they make to protect their career? That strikes at any system of representative government," said Bowden.
While he claims that he was unaware of Prism and other internet surveillance programmes carried out by the NSA, GCHQ in the UK and other western intelligence agencies, he predicted such a programme, informing the European Parliament in 2012 of the possibility.
Bowden, who was chief privacy officer for Microsoft across 40 countries between 2002 and 2011, added: "We're living through a transformation in surveillance power that's never been seen before on earth. And we don't know what type of government or leader will come to power next and exploit it. It could be the next president. It could be this one."
In addition to only using open source software, where he can inspect the underlying code, Bowden says that he hasn't owned a mobile phone for two years over privacy and surveillance concerns.
According to The Guardian newspaper, he says that he approached authorities in Europe two years ago to express his concerns, after leaving Microsoft. However, he adds, he was ignored - until the Prism revelations revealed the full extent of state internet and mobile communications spying.
Bowden believes that the "surveillance culture" of western intelligence agencies began in the 1970s, accelerating during the 2000s, especially with various US laws that either expanded agencies' surveillance rights or which gave retrospective protection to wiretapping that had already taken place, which violated US laws.