Expert Pitch

EU lacks leverage in pushing privacy standards on Amazon, Microsoft

Cornell University
27-May-2021 1:45 PM EDT, by Cornell University

The European Union’s privacy watchdog has opened two investigations into EU institutions’ use of cloud computing services offered by Amazon and Microsoft. The watchdog, known as the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) is concerned about the personal data of Europeans being transferred to the United States. 

Sarah Kreps, a professor of government, studies technology, international politics and national security. Kreps says the EU is in a difficult position when it comes to privacy and cloud storage, since it doesn’t have its own data storage and processing capabilities, yet is more privacy conscious than the U.S.

Kreps says: 

“The European Union has found itself in an awkward position in recent years because it is reliant on cloud storage outside its borders yet values the data sovereignty and privacy that can only come from European-origin cloud storage. The U.S. and China have dominated the cloud storage space, and while EU values converge more closely with the U.S. than China, the EU is far more privacy conscious.

“In 2020, the EU launched Gaia-X that would provide data storage and processing in Europe, but the time horizon for those capabilities is much longer-term especially because the program was vastly underfunded. Until then, the EU is having to push the U.S.-based services of Amazon and Microsoft to converge with its standards, a compliance strategy that is quite iffy given the legal wickets and lack of EU leverage on the matter.”

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