Microsoft wants to protect foreign users’ data, offers non-US data centers



If you aren’t happy with the NSA spying on your data, just so that you know, Microsoft isn’t a fan of it either. To make things favorable for its non-US customers, Microsoft will store its data outside the US. The company is willing to provide its users a choice to pick the data center where they want their information to be stored.

“People should have the ability to know whether their data are being subjected to the laws and access of governments in some other country and should have the ability to make an informed choice of where their data resides,” said Brad Smith, general counsel of Microsoft.

The move by Microsoft is getting mixed responses. Privacy advocates have welcomed the idea; tech giants seem to be confused about adopting similar policies, as setting up data centers outside the US involves many challenges such as financial costs.

“Our entire industry is concerned that some customers outside the US are feeling less confident with [American] online services today,” Smith says. “Technology today requires that people have a high degree of trust in the services they are using . . . The events of the last year undermine some of that trust [and] that is one of the reasons new steps are needed to address it,” Smith adds.

The NSA monitors the data that either ends up in the United States or passes through it. Which doesn’t sound so awful until you realize that the majority of the services that anyone uses are either US-based or have servers located there.

So will this make everything right? We don’t know. The aftermath is still very confusing. Regardless of the country where you have kept your servers, US courts can still issue an order to access that data.

Brad Smith also pinpointed the need to revise the “Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty” that lets the US and EU governments seek data in each other’s territory.

“If you want to ensure that one government doesn’t seek . . . to reach data in another country, the best way to do it is . . . an international agreement between those two countries. Secure a promise by each government that it will act only pursuant to due process and along the way improve the due process.”.