n announced (opens in new tab) the launch of its second European AWS data center in Frankfurt, Germany. The first European data center, or "region" as Amazon calls them, is situated in Dublin, Ireland. That's where many other U.S. technology companies have their headquarters and data centers, too, as a way to lower their international taxes (although that may be changing soon).
After the Snowden revelations of U.S. spying and many countries' calls for building data centers locally, it seems Amazon picked the one where data protection is among the strongest in Europe and in the European Union -- and that's even compared to the EU's general data protection laws, which are quite strict as well.
This move will give Amazon new opportunities for business in Europe, and perhaps as far as the Middle East, if those customers feel they trust Germany's data protection laws more than they do the American laws or the U.S. government.
“We know that data sovereignty is important to our customers in Germany," Steve Midgley, AWS EMEA chief, said. “A number have told us that they're running the workload that they're allowed to run on us, by virtue of policy, but they're not permitted to run other workloads. It tends to differ from company to company, but some examples might be customer data, personal data."
Although in theory, requests for the data stored in this new data center should comply with the strict German laws, it's still unclear whether the U.S. government will be prevented from accessing that data as well.
Early this year, both a U.S. court and the U.S. government claimed that if it's an American company, then it doesn't matter where the data is stored. This happened in a case involving a data request from the U.S. government to Microsoft's Ireland headquarters. Microsoft, along with Apple, Cisco, AT&T and Verizon have filed court briefs supporting Microsoft and are still trying to get that ruling appealed.
A new law passed in Russia demands that Internet companies that want to service Russians must keep the data locally, as well, starting with 2016. From the looks of it, Amazon might comply with that law, if necessary:
“We will respond to customer requirements as and when they become economically viable and make sense," Midgley said. “We certainly haven't seen a decrease in the number of Russian customers leveraging the power of the cloud."
According to Andy Jassy, AWS senior vice president, Amazon's customers can also ensure the data is safe by retaining their own encryption keys. That may be an even better way to protect the data against a U.S. court order, if even Amazon won't be able to comply with the data request.