Swisscom builds 'Swiss Cloud' as spying storm rages

Sun Nov 3, 2013 10:18am EST
 
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By Caroline Copley

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swisscom is building a "Swiss Cloud" that could loosen the grip of U.S. technology giants and attract foreign companies looking for a way to shield sensitive data from the prying eyes of foreign intelligence services.

Companies are increasingly turning to cloud computing - an umbrella term for technology services such as email and business software offered remotely via the Internet instead of on-site - to cut costs and add flexibility to their IT departments.

But revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) secretly gathered user data from nine big U.S. tech companies including Google, Apple and Facebook has demonstrated that privacy for users of cloud services can be compromised, and some suggest customers could seek out alternatives to the dominant U.S. providers to try and protect sensitive information.

Swisscom's head of IT services Andreas Koenig told Reuters the telecom provider's decision to set up a home cloud was unrelated to the recent NSA revelations and driven more by a desire to cut costs and make its systems more dynamic.

Still, as the technology to protect against illegal threats progresses, Koenig says it will start to make more sense to store data in locations where strict privacy laws make it harder to retrieve sensitive information.

"Data protection and privacy is a long tradition in Switzerland, and that's why it's pretty difficult to get to something," Koenig said.

"But if legal requirements are there and we are asked by the judge to obtain or deliver certain information then we would obviously have to comply with it."

Unlike in the United States, where the 2001 Patriot Act and the 2008 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISAA) gives U.S. intelligence agencies the power to carry out mass information gathering, Swisscom would have to receive a formal request from a prosecutor before allowing access to data.   Continued...

 
The logo of Swiss telecom company Swisscom AG is seen at an office building in Zurich July 19, 2013. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann