A cloud safe from the NSA's prying eyes: Europe begins work on its EU-wide system

A cloud safe from the NSA's prying eyes: Europe begins work on its EU-wide system

Summary: A new project seeks to lay down some ground rules for what could become a cloud for the continent.

TOPICS: Cloud, Security, Storage, EU

At last week's Berlin launch of a new EU-funded research project which aims to lay the groundwork for a European-wide cloud, spying by foreign governments hung darkly over the proceedings.

"Recent spy allegations have shocked some of us," according to Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission, but "they should not derail the cloud opportunity".

Estonia's president Toomas Ilves and Germany's commissioner for IT Cornelia Rogall-Grothe
Estonia's president Toomas Ilves and Germany's commissioner for IT Cornelia Rogall-Grothe. Image: Michael Filtz

According to Estonia's president Toomas Hendrik Ilves, these allegations have brought greater public awareness of cloud security. "Before 6 June, this was a process that was going on without much public opinion," he said, referring to the date when the Snowden NSA leaks first hit the press, "that it seemed to be kind of a thing for geeks.

"After 6 June, this has become a pan-European issue for good and bad."

'Cloud for Europe' seeks to establish a common regulatory framework for a continent-wide cloud, intended to be more secure from the eyes of foreign intelligence services than the currently available equivalents.

The main idea behind the project seems to be that if regulators could create a more secure space for data storage, European governments and consumers would be more likely to trust it. Plus, regulatory oversight could make data privacy rules more consistent across borders, and be more reflective of European legal values.

"95 percent of cloud services that are used in Europe come from a different legal space, without any European participation," Ilves said, "in which there is the kind of security that some other countries have demanded but not the kind of security that satisfies European need."

If you build it, they will come?

During last week's two-day conference that accompanied the launch of Cloud for Europe, most of the discussion revolved around either the practical aspects of creating a continent-wide cloud: harmonising policies, addressing specific cloud requirements for the public sector; or the economic benefits of cloud services: "Cloud computing services can help increase productivity and free small and medium-sized businesses and start-ups from having to make large investments in IT," Cornelia Rogall-Groth, Germany's federal government commissioner for information technology, said.

However, one critical element not yet resolved is how the project plans to get buy-in from the majority of the EU member states: only 11 of the 28 countries in the European Union have so far signed up to the Cloud for Europe plan. The EC's Neelie Kroes equated the creation of a European cloud with the introduction of the euro. "We started with a couple of member states," she said of the initial adopters of the currency, "and now still, under the circumstances of today, other member states are lining up and are knocking on the door."

Further reading

Topics: Cloud, Security, Storage, EU

Michael Filtz

About Michael Filtz

From the day he brought home a modem and dialed in to a local BBS in 1991, Michael has been obsessed with technology and how it enables collaboration. He has a master's degree in journalism from UC Berkeley, and has worked in and around the technology start-up scenes in San Francisco and Berlin.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Good Excuse

    This is as good an excuse as any to justify doing what had to be done anyway. Face it, everyone that hasn't been exposed or admitted it is spying too. Chinese, Russians, British, Syrians, everyone. There have been several articles about cyber warfare... its here, the time is now.

    How many times have you heard that TCP/IP or the Internet was not designed with security in mind. Well now is that time. Actually it would have been netter if it had already been done but better late than never.
  • Dear NSA (from EU)

    Don't worry, just ask us and our spies will peep into the cloud for you.
    Alan Smithie
    • I thought the same thing.

      This is just to keep cloud users interested in using the cloud.

      You can't spy on someone in their house, if they don't go in their house.
  • Okay, physically, how will this work>

    I understand their goal here, and really now, it is not about 'security', is it. Unless they use NON-Internet protocols and NON-Internet standards and DECOUPLE from the rest of the known world, then it is NOT isolated. Unless of course the EU is having long loving conversations with the Chinese about their 'Great Firewall' and plans to put the whole of Europe behind one. What is really going on is another grab for money and power and 'darn it if we can't take it for ourselves' here. In the end, the result will be a set of rules that pretty much say anything having to do with the Internet for EU members must reside in and happen in EU countries - and if I had to bet Brussels will run it and France and Germany will benefit the most from it. Seems to be the pattern.

    And not surprising, since that seems to be so much the patented French solution - we must make Europe - EUROPE. But tech (just like Mr. Snowden proved - much to the delight of control-mad countries everywhere) doesn't respect political ambitions. Unless it is separate, or firewalled, it is exposed. So this is 'governance' thing here. Ironically, the one thing all our tech has done is expose the fact that the human part of it hasn't progressed at all. In fact it may have regressed. And so far, what the new tech has wrought seems to not be as beneficial as we thought. But it sure makes money, and that's the real point here.
    • It makes money?

      Sure. But with the government wrangling, both NSA, and EU, it is about power, not money. Control of the citizens and suppression of their rights, or ability to react to suppression of their rights. How could resistance movements organize in the face of tyranny, when those in power can intercept every communication? It is the tightening of the final screw in preparation for global hegemony.
  • your own private idaho - equals - your own private internet

    Hello is there anyone out there? Or in there depending on your perspective.
  • EU Cloud

    I don't trust the EU anymore than the NSA, maybe less. The NSA are paranoid secret hoarders.
  • hillarious article

    so whatz, nsa won't spy you but eu secret services will so it's ok?