Germany saw collective outrage following the revelations about the U.S. National Security Agency’s data collection tactics as revealed by Edward Snowden in June of 2013. The public and the government both began to demand answers from Washington about the extent of its surveillance of German citizens, and telecom companies launched campaigns to maintain a private German internet. Deutsche Telekom — a state-backed telco — wanted local communications companies to work together to shield local internet traffic from foreign spying. Earlier this year, the German government canceled its contract with U.S.-based telco Verizon, which had been providing network infrastructure for the German government’s Berlin-Bonn network since 2010. Brazil has joined Germany in pushing U.S. technology companies to reassure users of their privacy, amp up their transparency, and consider creating localized data centers in order to better prevent NSA surveillance.
While neither country has gotten very far with their demands on U.S. tech companies, Amazon has recently made a move to ameliorate its relationship with Germany, notably by opening an Amazon Web Services (AWS) location in Frankfurt. AWS is arguably the world’s largest cloud service — it hosts tech giants such as Netflix. And thus far, Amazon’s only AWS center has been located in Ireland. Frankfurt will serve as another hub to deliver cloud computing services, and could also ease the concerns of the German government on the security and privacy provided by Amazon itself.
There has been consistent clamoring in the European Union — with Germany as one of the loudest voices — for the wrangling of U.S. tech companies. Google has born much of the brunt of the E.U.’s concerns over privacy for users, but Amazon has not gotten off scot-free. It has been entangled in labor problems in Germany since clashes with union culture and workers’ rights to organize erupted last year.
While it will take more than a Germany-based cloud computing center to relieve the tension between Berlin and the U.S. regarding the NSA’s persistent data-culling practices, it’s an important step on Amazon’s part to recognize the privacy concerns of Germans. It might be a band aid, but it’s a significant one.