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Are Companies Migrating Their Data To Canada To Steer Clear Of NSA Surveillance?
January 9, 2014
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Inside Google's Mayes County, Okla. data centre (Photo: AP Photo/Google, Connie Zhou, File) 

Ever since Edward Snowden leaked news of widespread electronic surveillance in the U.S. on the part of the National Security Agency, companies that keep their data there have been voicing their concerns about the extent of that surveillance.

This morning, the Toronto Star reported an interesting wrinkle to the story: according to an industry association representing data centres in Canada, the federal government is currently trying to lure large internet companies to bring their sensitive information north of the border.

“There are governmental agencies right now in Canada who are actively trying to recruit Silicon Valley companies like Google and Facebook and trying to convince them to build cloud infrastructure in Canada,” Robert Hart, founder and chief executive of the Canadian Cloud Council, told the Star. “I would say there’s a lot of movement right now at a political level to convince some of these larger software companies ... to host their software in Canada to get that data away from the NSA for optical reasons.”

Among the revelations from the documents leaked by Snowden was the practice of using top secret court warrants to request data from domestic sources — and much of that information is stored in massive data centre complexes in the U.S.

According to one estimate cited by the Star, the U.S. stands to lose as much as $35 billion in the cloud-computing market should companies like Facebook, Twitter or Google decide to move their data to Canada. The companies rumoured to be considering the move include European financial firms, U.S. oil companies and even large retail companies (the amount of customer data held by Wal-Mart reportedly reaches well into the petabytes).

In related news, a Canadian hosting company called PEER 1 released a survey yesterday of 300 Canadian and U.K. small businesses that found that 25 per cent of them had decided to move their data out of the U.S. Among just the Canadian firms, fully a third of surveyed companies said they were making the move. What's more 82 per cent said that privacy laws were a top concern when choosing where to host their data. (Of course, PEER 1 has a vested interested in all this, since they offer a competing service to cloud-hosting companies like Amazon.)

“We’ve already moved a number of our customers out of Amazon Web Services [in the U.S.],” Luke Deneau, CEO of the Burlington, Ontario-based Taridium Canada told the Wall Street Journal's CIO Journal. “Probably over the next six months we will move the rest." Those customers moved to PEER 1.

Yesterday, Associated Press reported that U.S. President Barack Obama was poised to announced tightened restrictions on the activities of the NSA.

Via Toronto Star


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