Microsoft Will Let Users Choose Where Data Is Stored

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

In the wake of the NSA spying scandal, Microsoft says it will allow foreign users to store their data outside of the United States

Microsoft is seeking to restore user confidence in its services following the revelations from Edward Snowden that commercial firms colluded with the spying activities by the US National Security Agency (NSA).

A lawyer for the American software giant announced that non-US residents would be given the choice to store their data outside the United States of America.

International Storage

The confirmation that overseas customers will be allowed to store their personal data outside the US came from Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith, speaking to the Financial Times at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Microsoft reportedly feels the move is necessary to restore public confidence following leaks about the data-collection schemes of the NSA.

america security - Shutterstock - © Bruce RolffThis could allow for example a European-based SkyDrive customer to opt to store its data in Microsoft’s Irish data centre, rather than one in the United States. Whether that would prevent the NSA’s European partners such as the UK’s GCHQ, from accessing the data, remains to be seen of course.

“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,” Smith said.

Microsoft’s Smith also revealed in a panel discussion in Davos that Redmond does not routinely turn over information stored in its data centres to US authorities and requires requests made by governments to go through the due process of law.

“We have never turned over to any government any information that belongs to another business, another government or an NGO,” Smith was quoted as saying. “It is not our right, no one elected us, to simply decide to turn over someone’s information.”

Persistent Threat

Back in early December, Smith labelled the US government as an “advanced persistent threat“.

Not only are they (the US government) sidestepping IT security safeguards, he said in company remarks at the time, but in his company’s view they are also circumventing “legal processes and protections.” Smith also said at the time that “these efforts threaten to seriously undermine confidence in the security and privacy of online communications.”

Smith also likened the NSA’s activities to some of the most aggressive dangers faced by companies with an online presence. “Indeed, government snooping potentially now constitutes an ‘advanced persistent threat,’ alongside sophisticated malware and cyber-attacks,” he said.

Microsoft has also previously stated that it is considering encrypting its traffic to prevent interception from government spy agencies.

Last week, President Obama promised to rein in NSA surveillance activities in response to Edward Snowden’s revelations, but many feel that the announcement will make little practical difference to the intelligence agency – or the vast industry of data collection and storage.

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Originally published on eWeek.

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