The massive stink that Europe has put up against U.S. surveillance as a result of the Snowden leaks in 2013 seems to be bearing fruit in small ways — at least in Germany. It appears as though the country is getting its way somewhat following huge backlash against U.S.-stored data on German users. On Wednesday, Microsoft announced that it will offer European customers the option of storing their cloud data in Germany, in two data centers overseen by Deutsche Telekom AG (the country’s biggest telco).
Set for launch in the second half of 2016, as Reuters reports, Microsoft’s cloud storage services will have a home base in Germany, and will be available to customers in the 28 countries of the E.U. as well as the four members of the European Free Trade Association.
It has been a solid two years of European complaints against U.S. surveillance on the continent’s users — much of that protest has come from Germany. Next to Brazil, Germany was as the most vocal country against the U.S.’s National Security Agency’s spying practices. But this move on the part of Microsoft isn’t so much to assuage the government’s fears as it is to encourage European businesses to store their data with the company — something that is increasingly difficult for U.S. storage companies to convince European businesses it is safe to do.
That promise of safe data hosting was thrown even more into wack in early October when the European Court of Justice revoked the Safe Harbor decision — a provision implemented in 2000 that allowed U.S. tech companies to use a single standard for consumer privacy and data storage on both continents without having to abide by multiple countries’ sets of regulations.
Overall, this move is part of Microsoft’s plan to expand in Europe. Amid constant controversy in the continent because of its massive presence in multiple sectors of technology (oh, and the company’s search engine Bing was implicated in the “right to be forgotten” ruling against Google earlier this year), Microsoft looks to be attempting to ameliorate European attitudes towards it. On Tuesday, CEO Satya Nadella unveiled plans to offer commercial cloud services from the U.K. The Microsoft Azure and Office 365 products will be generally available from local U.K.-based data centers in late 2016 with Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online following. The company’s statement says:
Built on foundational trusted cloud principles of security, privacy and control, compliance and transparency, these services will offer customers data residency in the UK, bringing world-class reliability and performance to government organisations, regulated industries and other businesses.
Microsoft’s moves in Germany also call to mind the attempt Brazil made to get U.S. tech companies to do just that: build data centers in its country in order to wrest control away from U.S. surveillance entities. Back in 2013, following the N.S.A. revelations, policy makers in Brazil tried to pass a law requiring companies like Facebook and Yahoo to store data about Brazilians in local data centers. That law never passed, but this effort on the part of Microsoft echoes the attempts of other U.S. tech companies to mollify the fears of various countries — notably important markets like Germany’s — in order to avoid investigation and maintain its business prowess.