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28th Aug 2016

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EU clouds two years behind US, says IT report

  • EU cloud computing lags two years behind the US according to a leading IT research firm. (Photo: Jonathas Rodrigues)

EU cloud computing will lag two years behind the US due to European privacy rules and the eurozone crisis, said a report on the future of cloud computing released on Friday (1 June) by US technology research company Gartner.

Paolo Malinverno, vice-president at Gartner, commented that "the opportunities for cloud computing value are valid all over the world, and the same is true for some of the risks and costs. However, some of cloud computing’s potential risks and costs — namely security, transparency and integration — take on a different meaning in Europe.”

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Regulating cloud computing, where the Internet and software programmes offer numerous ways to cheaply store huge amounts of data, is one of the aims behind Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding’s proposal launched in January to overhaul the EU’s data protection legislation.

The package is now under consideration in the Parliament’s civil liberties committee and will be piloted by Green MEP Jan-Philip Albrecht, with both the Commission and Parliament hoping to secure a deal in the autumn.

Gartner analysts argue that the slow process of EU law-making, coupled with different levels of harmonisation and implementation by member states, will hamper the EU cloud market. Referring to the ongoing euro crisis, they claimed that it had "deep IT implications, because increasing uncertainty about the euro is causing major investments to be put on hold". In a paper also released on Friday (1 June), fellow IT research body Visiongain put the global cloud market at $37.9bn for 2012.

Meanwhile, cyber experts speaking last Thursday (31 May) at a meeting of the European Parliament's Privacy Platform claimed that outdated data laws put in place before the Internet age increase the ability of governments, corporations and hackers to access sensitive personal information.

Jim Dempsey, Vice-President of US think-tank the Centre for Democracy and Technology (CDT) urged EU and US legislators to work together to “catch up on privacy law in the digital age”. He referred to the fact that existing US laws adopted in 1986 preclude government interception of communications without a court order from the judge, but allow access to data in storage. The EU's data protection legislation was last updated in 1995.

One of the key questions facing politicians in the EU and US concerns the extent of government access to data stored in the cloud. Both the US Congress and UK government have attracted controversy this year over their respective attempts to increase the access of law authorities and the military to personal email and mobile text messages.

Liberal MEP Sophie In’t Veld, who chairs the Privacy Platform, stated that while there was “no ideological divide” on cloud computing the main aim of the new regulation should be to protect individuals from data breaches and overbearing government intervention.

Fellow panellist Sebastian Meissner, of data privacy think-tank Article 29, called on law-makers to draw up clear rules on data sharing between governments and third country data access.

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