September 16, 2011, 1:40 PM — American cloud providers may find themselves unable to sell to the Dutch government due to concerns that the vendors could be compelled to share data with U.S. authorities under the provisions of the Patriot Act. Similar concerns are being raised in the European Parliament.
Ivo Opstelten, the Dutch minister of security and justice, informed the Tweede Kamer (the Dutch lower house) last week that the government is contemplating excluding American cloud providers from government bids. Dutch government agencies need to protect government information and citizen data from being accessed by the U.S., and so bids must be able to meet demands that cloud providers do not hand over any information to the U.S.
"That basically means that companies form the United States are excluded from such [government] bids and contracts," Opstelten said in the letter.
Excluding U.S. cloud providers is not official policy yet. However, Vincent van Steen, spokesperson for the ministry of the interior, confirmed that the Dutch government is considering a ban on U.S. cloud providers like Microsoft and Google. "The minister is considering this", he said in an email. "This means that it could be a requirement for tenders and the awarding of contracts."
Nigel Murray, managing director of the consultancy firm Huron Legal, confirmed the Patriot Act could override European data and privacy legislation in a report by Dutch IDG news site Webwereld on Wednesday. "If data is transferred to the United States under the Safe Harbor protocol or an American injunction, U.S. Regulators can retrieve the data using the Patriot Act. This usually happens without the person concerned knowing anything about it," Murray told Webwereld.
Not only governments but also businesses should refrain from doing business with American cloud providers, experts advised in the Webwereld article. Professor Jeanne Mifsud Bonnic, expert in European technology law and human rights at the University of Groningen, reckoned that the current situation creates a "beautiful opportunity" for European cloud providers to make some headway in the European market.
Concerns about the affect the Patriot Act has on data stored by U.S. companies in Europe have also been raised in the European Parliament (EP).
According to Sophie in 't Veld, MP for the democratic ALDE party in the EP, this is a very serious problem "This is not how we deal with each other," In 't Veld said in a phone interview. "The European Commission should say to the American government: 'You have to respect our rules.'"
According to In 't Veld, the American government should not be allowed to have a back door into cloud data stored in Europe.