Microsoft: Cloud services hampered by unclear data rules

A senior Microsoft attorney said a single standard for data transactions is needed across Europe

The patchwork of rules across Europe regarding the handling of data poses a hurdle for Microsoft's efforts to provide cloud-based services, a senior Microsoft attorney said on Thursday.

Countries throughout the Europe Union have differing rules regarding data retention, privacy, consumer rights, cross-border data transactions and data ownership. This means that companies such as Microsoft may not be able to offer certain types of services due to restrictions on how data is moved or questions of law.

"What needs to be done is to bring a common set of rules and in a few cases maybe a revision or a new set of rules," said John Vassallo, vice president for E.U. affairs for Microsoft, speaking on the sidelines of Microsoft's Government Leaders Forum in London.

Countries that are part of the E.U. are bound by the European Commission's directives, but their interpretation of those rules is often divergent.

For example, under the Data Retention Directive, providers of electronic communications services (ECSes) are required to maintain data such as records of e-mail recipients, for a minimum of six months up to two years, for law enforcement purposes. But when it comes to other data, E.U. countries differ on what constitutes an ECS. Even if two countries agree on what an ECS is, they may differ on how long the provider needs to retain that data, posing more difficulties for companies.

Data sovereignty is also a concern. For example, multiple states may have an interest in particular data, but could run into conflicting laws and regulations over which entity would have jurisdiction in case of a problem.

If a cloud service provider complies with a demand from law enforcement in one country, that might violate privacy regulations of a user in another jurisdiction. That makes it also harder for cloud services companies to communicate to their customers under what conditions their data may be exposed.

"You must find a system that all countries at least within the E.U. at first and maybe beyond will agree to," Vassallo said. "These things don't exist today."

Vassallo said concepts that are being discussed include a "diplomatic immunity" for data, where communications would be treated with the same privilege as diplomats who carry paperwork in briefcases. Another idea is a "data free zone," or areas where there are harmonized rules for data transactions, similar to free trade zones.

A universal agreement for data would mean more transparency for consumers while also allowing for the growth of cloud services, which hold the promise of enabling businesses to in turn offer new services.

"The end result is it would be increasing the certainty to 500 million [ E.U.] citizens that their rights are going to be treated equally," Vassallo said.

But "the legislative system is slower than the technology development, and that is always the case," he said.

Tags Microsoftsecurityregulationencryptiondata protectiongovernmentlegislationprivacy

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service

Comments

Comments are now closed.

Latest News Articles

Most Popular Articles

Follow Us

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Resources

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?