US ‘cloud’ supremacy has Europe worried about data

Renault, Orange, Deutsche Bank, and Lufthansa recently plumped for Google Cloud. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 04 August 2020

US ‘cloud’ supremacy has Europe worried about data

  • Europe is sitting on a wealth of data that is the 21st century equivalent of a precious metal mine
  • Europeans may be allowing American tech giants to gain control of all the excavation equipment

PARIS: Europe is sitting on a wealth of data that is the 21st century equivalent of a precious metal mine during the gold rush.
But instead of exploiting it themselves Europeans may be allowing American tech giants to gain control of all the excavation equipment, some experts say, pointing to a flurry of European companies announcing deals with US tech players for cloud services.
Renault, Orange, Deutsche Bank, and Lufthansa recently plumped for Google Cloud. Volkswagen signed up with Amazon Web Services. The French health ministry chose Microsoft to house its research data.
The cloud is a term for offering data storage and processing services externally so clients don’t need to invest as much in costly gear.
This trend has sparked concern particularly in Germany, which has a rich trove of data thanks to its powerful industrial sector.
The EU is “losing its influence in the digital sphere at the moment it is taking a central role in the continent’s economy” warned a recent report by a group of experts and media leaders under the leadership of the former head of German software firm SAP, Henning Kagermann.
“The majority of European data is stocked outside of Europe, or, if stocked in Europe, is on servers that belong to non-European firms,” it noted.

A senior French official recently delivered an even more blunt assessment in a meeting with IT professionals.
“We have an enormous security and sovereignty issue with clouds” said the official at the meeting, which AFP attended on the condition of respecting the anonymity of participants.
“In many cases it is convenience or a sellout” by European companies and institutions “because it is simpler” to sign up with US tech giants than find European options, said the official.
“However we have very good firms offering cloud and data services,” he added.
One of the causes of concern for Europeans comes from the Cloud Act, a piece of legislation adopted in 2018 that gives US intelligence agencies access in certain cases to data hosted by US firms, no matter where the server may be physically located.
“My company is American and I know very well what the implications are of the legislation,” said a Franco-American executive.
“And given what is happening in US policy debates, that situation won’t be getting better.”
Beyond the integrity of data, it is the capacity to analyze and exploit that information that worries many European experts and policymakers.

If in Europe “we are just capable of generating data and need others to exploit it then we are going to end up in the same situation as countries with mineral resources that rely on others to process it and end up with meagre economic benefits,” said the French official.
The French and Germans unveiled in June the GAIA-X project that aims to develop a competitive European cloud offer.
Rather than encourage the development of a European champion — in the mold of Airbus in response to Boeing — that would offer the full gamut of services, the project takes a different tack.
It aims to set standards so different firms could offer storage, processing, security and artificial intelligence services seamlessly. It would operate as a marketplace of sorts where each client could find the services they need without having to leave European jurisdiction.
It is hoped GAIA-X’s decentralized model might prove a better fit with the issues raised by treatment of data from connected devices.


EU warns of slim window to avoid repeat of prior virus peak

Updated 18 min 35 sec ago

EU warns of slim window to avoid repeat of prior virus peak

BRUSSELS: European Union officials urged member nations Thursday to move quickly to slow the latest wave of COVID-19 infections to avoid a repeat of the broad lockdowns that paralyzed the continent’s economy in the spring.
EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said the most recent risk assessment showed that some countries are reporting more cases now than they did during the earlier pandemic’s peak in Europe.
“We are at a decisive moment. All member states must be ready to roll out control measures, immediately and at the right time, at the very first sign of potential new outbreaks,” Kyriakides said. “This might be our last chance to prevent a repeat of last spring.”
More than 3 million cases have been reported in Europe since the beginning of the year, including 187,509 deaths, according to figures from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
To control the virus’s rebound, several EU nations have imposed localized lockdowns, limited public and private gatherings again, and restricted the operation of bars, restaurants and entertainment venues.
European Center for Disease Prevention and Control director Andrea Ammon, noting the social impact of such moves, noted the need to maintain basic precautions such as physical distancing and frequent hand washing.
“Until there is a safe and effective vaccine available, rapid identification, testing, and quarantine of high-risk contacts are some of the most effective measures to reduce transmission,” Ammon said.
Her agency said in its latest evaluation of the pandemic that the level of immunity in the European population remains low, estimating it is under 15% in most of the EU and the UK
“Most of the people can still be infected,” Ammon said.
The ECDC said EU countries should emphasize curbing the spread of the virus among children and adults under age 50, making sure the public is aware that people in those categories can become seriously ill from COVID-19 as well as expose more vulnerable populations to the virus.
While some EU members have shortened their mandatory quarantine periods, the ECDC continues to recommended 14-day quarantines for people who had contact with infected individuals.
“The pandemic is far from over and we must not drop our guard,” Ammon said.