Microsoft is building data centres in Germany to protect European users from US spying

Satya NadellaBhupinder NayyarMicrosoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Microsoft is building a set of data centres in Germany which will, the company hopes, help fend of data requests from the US government, The Financial Times reports. The project is in conjunction with Deutsche Telekom.

Various big American companies, including Apple and Microsoft, have become involved in a legal spat with the US government over its rights to data access on non-US soil, namely in Europe. A lot of data for European customers was hosted in the US which, the government argued, allowed them access.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a press conference that “[t]hese new data centre regions will enable customers to use the full power of Microsoft’s cloud in Germany … and ensure that a German company retains control of the data.”

Microsoft announced on Tuesday that the company is expanding its data centre presence elsewhere in Europe, spending $US2 billion (£1.3 billion) on upgrading existing infrastructure in Ireland and the Netherlands and building entirely new centres in the UK.

An analyst who spoke to The Financial Times said that Microsoft’s move is a “watershed moment” for user privacy. The company is the first big American corporation to accept that it can’t protect the user data of global customers while it hosts in the US.

In order for the deal to work, Microsoft is working with Deutsche Telekom and is marking the company as a “trustee” of the data. When the US government comes knocking, Microsoft says, Deutsche Telekom employees have to allow Microsoft access to the data.

The data centres are set to be finished in late 2016 — like those in the UK — and it is as yet unclear if Microsoft’s strategy will work.

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