TPP moves toward killing off government-mandated data sovereignty

Government mandates forcing companies to store its data in local datacentres will be a thing of the past under the terms of the TPP among the 12 countries involved.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Governments in Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Brunei, and Chile will be unable to force companies from those countries to store government data in local datacentres, the summaries of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) released overnight have revealed.

Contained within the TPP's electronic commerce chapter, governments will not only be prevented from mandating data sovereignty provision, they will also be unable to demand access to source code from companies incorporated in TPP territories.

"TPP parties commit to ensuring free flow of the global information and data that drive the internet and the digital economy, subject to legitimate public policy objectives, such as personal information protection," the US TPP summary states.

"The 12 parties also agree not to require that TPP companies build datacenters to store data as a condition for operating in a TPP market, and, in addition, that source code of software is not required to be transferred or accessed."

According to the Canadian summary, the chapter also prohibits member governments from discriminating against or imposing custom duties or other charges on online digital products.

Were Russia a party to the TPP, it would be unable to enact laws passed in July 2014 that required online companies to store the personal data of Russians within the country.

"Most Russians don't want their data to leave Russia for the United States, where it can be hacked and given to criminals," Russian MP Vadim Dengin was reported as saying at the time. "Our entire lives are stored over there."

Last year, the Australian government dropped its requirement for agencies to get approval from two ministers before offshoring government data, moving to a model that only sought approval from an agency head or delegate.

The move, however, faced a mixed reception from Australian cloud and datacentre providers.

"The personal and private information governments receive through these new outsourced cloud arrangements has to be treated with the utmost safety and security," Ninefold chairman and co-founder Peter James said at the time.

"Furthermore, if there is a breach of privacy or the personal details of a citizen are compromised, then it is a fundamental right that the citizen can seek redress here in Australia rather than overseas courts."

Mark Randall, chief customer officer at Bulletproof, said in August 2014 that the new proposals were long overdue.

"You look at where things are now, and most of the global cloud providers actually have local datacentres in Australia anyway, which addresses the data sovereignty issue," he said.

Last week, Macquarie University revealed that a shift of its data from Europe to the United States by Google was the impetus of its move to Office 365 calendaring services.

"The new offering will include greater security and data privacy, as well as improved data access speeds, global email access, and collaboration with other Australian universities," Macquarie University chief information officer Mary Davies said.

Similar to other free trade deals that Australia has signed in the past, the TPP nations have agreed to enact measures to prevent spam emailing.

The TPP's electronic commerce chapter also calls on parties to move towards electronic forms for interactions with governments, to allow for electronic authentication and signatures for commercial transactions, and to maintain disclosure laws for personal information breaches.

"The chapter encourages cooperation on policies regarding personal information protection, online consumer protection, cybersecurity threats, and cybersecurity capacity," the US summary said.

Signed overnight after five years of negotiations, the TPP is aimed at regulating trade between Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Brunei, and Chile.

The full text of the agreement has yet to be released, with member nations so far only issuing summaries.

"TPP negotiating parties are now finalising arrangements for the release of the TPP text, and it will be released well in advance of signature," Australian Trade Minister Robb said this morning. "Each country will then undertake its domestic treaty-making process."

"For Australia, this will involve tabling the treaty text in parliament along with a National Interest Analysis and a review by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties to which all interested parties can make submissions."

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