Amazon CTO says business unaffected by Snowden revelations

Business overseas is as strong as ever, Werner Vogels says

Werner Vogels, left, talks with Gigaom's Om Malik at Gigaom Structure

Werner Vogels, left, talks with Gigaom's Om Malik at Gigaom Structure

Breaking with other players in the IT industry, Amazon's CTO has downplayed any impact of the Edward Snowden revelations on its international business.

"Growth outside the U.S. is as strong as it ever was," CTO Werner Vogels said in an onstage interview at the Gigaom Structure conference in San Francisco Wednesday.

Cisco and a few other vendors have complained that revelations about surveillance by the National Security Agency have eroded trust in U.S. technology firms overseas, harming their businesses. Cisco CEO John Chambers even complained to President Barack Obama, after reports that the NSA had intercepted routers en route to customers to plant surveillance tools.

Those concerns haven't affected Amazon and may even have helped the company, according to Vogels, because it leads to a conversation about the security of its platform.

He maintained that Amazon security tools like Cloud HSM allow customers to protect access to their data. "if you encrypt your data, you're the one who has full control over it," he said.

That seems an oversimplification, however, given the revelations about how the NSA has interfered with encryption standards.

Still, Vogels said 70 percent of the top 40 public companies in France use Amazon Web Services.

The CIA is a customer, too. Vogels was asked if the intelligence agency's $600 million contract with AWS gets it access to a "private cloud" -- or hardware that's not shared with other customers.

Vogels was reluctant to discuss the deal but seemed to confirm it does. "I'd call it a members only cloud," he said.

Asked if further regulation to harmonize data protection laws globally seems inevitable, Vogels said any disruption from regulations can be minimized through good design.

"I've yet to see a privacy regulation that can't be met by following good architecture principles," he said.

But ultimately, Vogels said, security tools provide better protection in the cloud than laws and regulations. "If someone [wants to] break into your house, you don't need a good lawyer, you need a good lock," he said.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is

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James Niccolai

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