Microsoft pledges to store European cloud data in Europe

PARIS (AFP) – United States (US) tech giant Microsoft yesterday pledged to store all European cloud-based client data in Europe amid unease on the continent over the reach of US legislation on personal data collection.

Microsoft’s European clients have long been concerned over the legal status of data they store with US companies in the cloud and the extent to which they could be scrutinised by US authorities.

Those worries came to a head last July when the European Court of Justice struck down the European Union- (EU) US Privacy Shield, a framework allowing firms to transfer personal data to the US in compliance with Brussels’ general data protection regulation. The court found the mechanism did not adequately protect EU data from US authorities over which Europe has neither control nor right of redress.

In a blog post yesterday, Microsoft President Brad Smith said, “If you are a commercial or public sector customer in the EU, we will go beyond our existing data storage commitments and enable you to process and store all your data in the EU.

“In other words, we will not need to move your data outside the EU.”

The French headquarters of Microsoft at Issy-Les-Moulineaux, on the outskirts of Paris. PHOTO: AFP

Smith said the commitment – dubbed the EU Data Boundary for the Microsoft Cloud – would apply across all of Microsoft’s core cloud services – Azure, Microsoft 365, and Dynamics 365 and would take effect by the end of next year. The initiative is dubbed the EU Data Boundary for the Microsoft Cloud.

Smith stated Microsoft cloud services “already comply with or exceed EU guidelines even before the plan we’re announcing yesterday”.

“We defend our customers’ data from improper access by any government in the world,” he added.

“We hope today’s update is another step toward responding to customers that want even greater data residency commitments,” Smith wrote, pledging to continue to consult with customers and regulators on the issue and respond to their feedback.

It remains to be seen, however, if Smith’s announcement will sufficiently assuage lingering European fears on the issue.