Swisscom, the majority Swiss government-owned telecommunications company, has announced that it plans to offer a “Swiss Cloud” to companies who want to store their data securely and privately. The company claims that the cloud would offer a higher level of security against the spying activities of national authorities than anywhere else in the world.
The increased security is largely a result of strict Swiss data protection laws (which were largely inspired by EU data protection laws) and the storage of the data there. Switzerland has long been concerned about maintaining the discretion of its financial services by preventing surveillance. It has now developed laws to match. For instance, in contrast to the alleged secretive mass information gathering by the NSA, GCHQ and (if media reports can be believed) German and French equivalents, Switzerland claims to only allow data to be retrieved for such purposes where a prosecutor has obtained a court order.
Of course, there is no guarantee that data cannot be intercepted once it crosses the border or leaves Swisscom’s network, which is something Swisscom has conceded. For now, Swisscom is concentrating mainly on Swiss companies, but says it will have capacity to serve foreign companies if the demand is there.
Is the spying scandal really news to those in government? This seems unlikely, but several politicians appear to be very surprised by the revelations.
Are Swiss-Cloud and Euro-cloud really going to prevent or curtail mass surveillance? If so, at what cost to the constant fight against crime and terrorism? It was reported by the media that the head of GCHQ recently said (somewhat sarcastically) that it would be nice if terrorists used one type of communications network and the rest of us used a different one. According to GCHQ, surveillance has meant that 34 terrorist plots have been thwarted in the UK since the 7/7 London bombings.
While closed cloud might benefit Switzerland and Europe in the short term has it been considered how compartmentalising the flow of data in ring-fenced clouds might impact on global economic growth – particularly if these concerns are misplaced?