Recent revelations about snooping by America's National Security Agency added to long-running concerns about the use of the Patriot Act have led many companies and individuals to think about switching away from US-based cloud providers such as Amazon, Dropbox, Google and Microsoft. Norway's Jottacloud is trying to attract some of this business by offering a Privacy Guarantee for its cloud service.
In a blog post, it says: "Jottacloud is a Norwegian company with Norwegian owners, and we operate under Norwegian privacy laws. We store all your files in Norway. As a result, our users are protected against US legislation, which arguably infringe the freedom and liberties of both US and non-US citizens."
How useful this is remains open to discussion.
First, data is not guaranteed to be secure unless it's encrypted, preferably before it is uploaded. This protects you from random snooping, but your data is still vulnerable if your local government can force you to reveal the keys.
Second, data traffic to Norway usually goes via other countries, perhaps Sweden or the UK. Data can still be accessed in transit, and if it's encrypted, the NSA may still have access to valuable metadata.
Third, nobody should assume that security organizations such as the NSA, CIA and KGB will act lawfully. It would be more realistic to assume that, if they want your data badly enough, they will do whatever it takes to get it.
Jottacloud offers 5GB of free storage, and unlimited storage for $6 per device per month. It currently has about 220,000 users, so it isn't a threat to US giants, but other services can be expected to try the same approach.
In so far as Jottacloud raises the bar -- makes life harder for snoopers and state-sponsored hackers -- then it should increase data privacy. However, it may also make it somewhat more difficult for users to access their own data. It remains to be seen whether Jottacloud and similar companies can maintain the same quality of service as American rivals such as Amazon, Dropbox, Google and Microsoft.
Either way, the geographical location of databases is definitely on the agenda. This may also prompt more companies -- not just enterprises -- to run their own in-house clouds.