Thursday, January 09, 2014

Canada marketed as data haven

You can't make this stuff up.

According to, Canadian companies are trying to attract international data centre customers leery of NSA snooping (Hugo Miller, "NSA Spying Sends Data Clients North of the Border,", 9 January 2014):
Revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency has spied on data networks run by American companies have given Canadian data-center operators an opportunity. They’re telling customers from Europe and Asia that laws north of the border are more protective of privacy.
However, as the article notes later,
the data-center sales pitch glosses over the long history of intelligence-sharing between Canada and the U.S. The governments have collaborated as far back as the 1940s, said Ron Deibert, an Internet-security expert who runs the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab.

“Anyone who would look to Canada as a safe haven would be fooling themselves,” Deibert said in a phone interview. “Canada would be one of the poorest choices as we have a long-standing relationship with the NSA.”
According to the Toronto Star, the Canadian government is supporting the effort to attract data to Canada (Allan Woods, "Canada courting U.S. web giants in wake of NSA spy scandal," Toronto Star, 9 January 2014):
While Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and others have launched a pressure campaign to have Washington rein in the NSA, the electronic spy agency, Canada is hoping to profit from the discontent, said Robert Hart, founder and chief executive of the Canadian Cloud Council, an industry association representing data centre firms in this country.

“There are governmental agencies right now in Canada who are actively trying to recruit Silicon Valley companies like Google and Facebook and trying to convince them to build cloud infrastructure in Canada,” Hart said in an interview Wednesday. “I would say there’s a lot of movement right now at a political level to convince some of these larger software companies ... to host their software in Canada to get that data away from the NSA for optical reasons.”
Because transferring that data to a country that is one of NSA's closest allies, that has the legal structure in place to seize foreign data of interest to Canada's intelligence agencies (see s16 of the CSIS Act), and that connects to the global Internet almost exclusively through the United States (even domestic Canadian Internet traffic often travels through the U.S.) is definitely going to keep that data out of the hands of the NSA.

[Update 11 January 2014: Allan Woods, "U.S. data migration to Canada won’t solve privacy issues, experts say," Toronto Star, 10 January 2014.]

Unsurprisingly, it appears that some of our European friends are a little skeptical that storing their data in Canada would provide much privacy benefit (see Michael Geist, "European Report Says Canadian Privacy Law Should Be Re-Examined Due to Surveillance Activities," Michael Geist blog, 9 January 2014).

[Update 11 January 2014: Ian Macleod, "European report calls for review of data sharing with Canada over spy concerns," Ottawa Citizen, 9 January 2014.]


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