Over the past few years, there has been mounting concern that the US government could invoke the Patriot Act to collect Australian data for surveillance purposes without permission. However, the extent of these powers is a little hazy: some experts claim that the Act can be enacted on American soil only, while others maintain that any data centre with ties to US companies is fair game.
Data centre picture from Shutterstock
According to Microsoft's senior director for servers and business tools, Steven Martin, non-US customers only need to worry about the privacy laws in the country that their data is hosted in — their data will not be subject to the Patriot Act even if their cloud provider is American owned.
Martin was speaking at a Windows Azure conference during Microsoft TechEd 2013 (check out all our coverage from the event here). During question time, the topic inevitably shifted to data sovereignty and how it relates to the Patriot Act. Interestingly, Martin was adamant that all of Microsoft's non-US customers are exempt from data collection activities if the data is hosted outside of the US.
"If a European customer is running a European data centre, it will not be subject [to the Patriot Act]. That particular piece of hardware is owned by that European company. This is something we have been dealing with for several years now," Martin explained.
"This is one of the reasons we set up geo-replication the way we have. Taking Europe as the example, when you're doing geo-replication and you're replicating between the western and the northern European data centres, customers that are running geo-replicated data in Europe know that all of their data is in Europe and it will never be out of those countries.
"And then customers who say I only want to be in Ireland, as an example, can turn off geo-replication so you know that your data never leaves that particular area."
In other words, it would appear that any data stored on Microsoft's incoming Australian Azure data centres will be safe from US snooping, which is good to know.