Microsoft to keep German customer data in Germany
Microsoft will give German customers of its online services the option of storing their data in Germany, addressing persistent privacy concerns in Europe following revelations about US online surveillance.
European consumers, privacy advocates and lawmakers have cited reports based on leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to claim that data stored by US companies is not safe from US government snooping. Such concerns pose a threat to firms such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon, whose business model is increasingly built around data storage and so-called cloud services such as Microsoft's Office 365.
Microsoft's chief executive said the company will start next year using data centres in Magdeburg and Frankfurt that are managed by T-Systems.
"These data centres will ensure that customers' data remains in Germany and that a German company controls access to data in accordance with German law," said Satya Nadella at a presentation in Berlin.
"Microsoft won't be able to access this data without the permission of customers or the data trustee, and if permission is granted by the data trustee, will only do so under its supervision," the company said.
In practice, this would mean that US authorities trying to access a German customer's data would have to work through authorities in Germany, where privacy laws are strict.
Microsoft's announcement comes a month after the Euro- pean Court of Justice sunk a trans-Atlantic privacy agreement known as Safe Harbor that had regulated the transfer of data to the US.
It is unclear whether, in the absence of a new data-sharing deal between Europe and the US, Microsoft's move might become the new norm for technology companies.
"Microsoft is putting the bar higher with this model," said Carsten Casper, managing vice president at Gartner Europe.