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Data Security: The International Factor

International security debates are set to continue

22Apr

How far will you go to protect your most valuable data? What practices will a business adopt to ensure their information is always secure? What legal ramifications are introduced as data use and storage goes international? These are just a few of the many questions many people the world over - from the tech community to security and legal experts - are trying to answer as the world becomes more connected than ever before. That means data isn’t just stored on the local level; it’s a real world traveler. The issue's become especially important in the wake of numerous data breaches being reported all over the news, both to individuals and mega corporations alike. Add in the complicated and sometimes heated debates surrounding government surveillance, and you get a recipe for genuine concern over how our data is being handled as it goes international.

Part of the reason data security has become such a priority (beyond the recent data breaches) is the very nature of how data is stored nowadays. Whereas before data was stored locally, usually on hard drives or flash storage, data now is often stored and accessed through cloud computing. That basically means data is now kept on servers, and where those servers are physically located plays a major part in what it means for that data to be protected and secure.

Most countries have laws and regulations determining the levels of protection given to data. One of the biggest debates surrounding data storage and security in the cloud revolves around if saved in a different country has the same protections as the laws of that country. For example, if a business in the U.S. stores their data on a server located in Sweden, should that data be under the protection of Swedish law, U.S. law, or a combination of both? It’s a matter that’s far from settled, though most arguments lean in the direction of being under the law of the physical server’s country. Despite the lack of clarification in the debate, many large businesses have already made moves they hope will lead to improved data security.

Microsoft is certainly no stranger to confronting this debate head on. The tech giant has been embroiled in a legal battle with the U.S. government related to the Stored Communications Act (SCT). The case boils down to the U.S. Department of Justice requesting emails from a suspected drug trafficker who happens to be a Microsoft customer. Since the emails are stored on a server in Ireland, Microsoft has refused to hand the emails over, telling the DOJ to talk with the Irish government to get them. In essence, the issue revolves around U.S. warrants and if they should still apply to a U.S. company that stores data in another country. Microsoft argues that if the U.S. government is allowed to do so, foreign governments would then be able to access data stored in the United States if they requested it.

In many ways, this pushback against government involvement is a response to government surveillance programs. Other governments have responded in similar ways. The European Union in particular is known for being more protective of data, especially when it comes to surveillance. Microsoft recently announced the construction of two new data centers in Germany, a country known for its stringent data security laws. While Microsoft has stated this isn’t a direct response to U.S. spying accusations, it’s hard to think it isn’t connected at least in some way. Many companies agree that they shouldn’t feel compelled to hand over their data, and as a result, some are choosing to store it in another country offering stronger data protection regulations. Box Inc., for example, will soon allow customers to store their data outside the U.S. if they so choose.

From these recents news pieces and announcements, it’s clear that many tech companies and businesses connected to the cloud are taking data security seriously. It may not be easy to find a solution to security and big data problems, but the focus is certainly there. All of these questions need to be answered as data storage has truly become a phenomenon that spans the entire globe.

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