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Amazon's clouds are da bomb, say EU data protection watchdogs

AWS meets Europe's privacy requirements, whatever they may be worth

Amazon’s cloud services have been declared safe by Europe’s privacy rights watchdogs.

The Article 29 Working Party (a group made up of all Europe’s national data protection authorities), led by the Luxembourgish CNPD, has found that Amazon Web Services’ standard contractual clauses meet all the requirements of EU data protection – whatever they may be worth.

The rules are undergoing some degree of reform at the moment.

According to the working party, Amazon cloud customers can be sure that even when their data is transferred across the world, under the so-called “controller-to-processor” clauses it will still get the same level of protection as if it was stored in the European Union.

Despite the positive ruling, the full letter to Amazon does contain a few caveats, including this one: "The positive outcome of this limited analysis should not be taken as a finding that Amazon's contractual arrangements are compliant as a whole with EU data protection rules generally."

So storing your data in Amazon's cloud is perfectly safe, except when it's not.

Following the Edward Snowden revelations, cloud customers have been concerned about where their files are held and processed, and who has access to them. Companies including Amazon have sought to capitalise on the fear of foreign surveillance by guaranteeing data is stored in countries specifically selected by customers. (Microsoft is having a spot of bother with that plan.)

In the EU, Amazon customers can choose to have their data stored in Dublin in Ireland or Frankfurt in Germany. The latter option was launched in October.

Amazon says its cloud services are being used by government agencies, educational institutions, and large enterprises, including Shell. chief technology officer Werner Vogels spelled it out: “Providing customers a data protection agreement that has been approved by the EU data protection authorities is another way in which we are giving [customers] assurances that they will receive the highest levels of data protection from Amazon. We have spent a lot of time building tools, like security controls and encryption, to give customers the ability to protect their infrastructure and content. We will always strive to provide the highest level of data security for Amazon customers in the EU and around the world.”

Following his comments yesterday, Europol chief Rob Wainright will now see the Amazon cloud as a warehouse of yet more data he cannot easily get his hands on. ®

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