Microsoft To Expand Options Related To Geography Of Online Data Storage Given NSA-related Privacy Concerns

Given recent concerns about the security of online data related to allegations of NSA spying, Microsoft is putting its stake in the ground by noting it will take additional measures to allow customers to store cloud-based data in data centers that reside in nations of their choosing. Microsoft’s general counsel, Brad Smith, noted that “people should have the ability to know whether their data…are being subject to laws in some other country and should have the ability to make an informed choice of where their data resides.” As noted in The New York Times, Microsoft’s option of allowing customers where to store their data for select applications such as Office 365, Dynamic CRM Online and Windows Azure predates Snowden’s revelations about NSA spying. But in an interview with The Financial Times, Microsoft’s Brad Smith indicated the company would be expanding the range of options available to customers with respect to data storage as it relates to national and regional boundaries. Details of Microsoft’s plans to enhance online data storage options remain scant, so we should expect to hear more from the Seattle tech behemoth in the days to come. For now, however, Microsoft’s decision to support options for data storage outside of the NSA’s purview raises a constellation of legal and philosophical questions about the rights of data owners to selectively store data transnationally in ways analogous to the debate about the legality of foreign-held Swiss bank accounts that are immune to certain fiduciary regulations, for example.

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