European Commission praises Cloud Computing

At present, Europe maintains its differences in language, customs and laws. At the same time though, it is strategically and economically unified: the 27 nations of the European Union make up a single market that is the world’s largest economy.

European policymakers now have an opportunity to further strengthen this economic partnership for the digital age. The arrival of cloud computing technology could potentially make an already tight union even more logical and advantageous than ever before. The cloud allows a corporation to build its physical headquarters in one country, get the technology it needs to run its operations from a service provider that may be located in another, and accommodate customers all around the world.

According to analysts Gartner, however, varying privacy rules, business processes and legislation across the 27 nations, the deepening debt crisis and a lingering recession are amongst many problems that will add to a delay in adoption of cloud computing in Europe. Conversely, it would seem that interest in cloud computing remains high and appears to be making a step forward.

The European Commission’s panel on privacy is shortly expected to endorse the concept of cloud computing as legal under the Continent’s privacy law and to recommend for the first time that large enterprises and organizations police themselves to assure that personal information kept in remote locations is protected.

It has been anticipated that the panel, known as the Article 29 Working Party, will make the recommendation as part of its long-awaited guidelines on cloud computing, which allegedly have the potential to dispel concerns regarding data privacy and advance the adoption of the remote-computing services, which are currently more common in the United States.

The news follows the EC’s previous pledge that they made earlier this year, to invest €10m to boost European cloud adoption. Building on the pledge Neelie Kroes, the European digital agenda commissioner, warned that in order to fully reap the benefits of cloud, Europe would need to create a single, lightly regulated market that companies felt secure using.

Some analysts are convinced that the forthcoming recommendations will overcome lingering reluctance of European companies’ to store data in U.S.-based clouds, where sensitive information about customers or business practices can theoretically be subject to government surveillance under the Patriot Act.

The guidelines expected to be introduced are nonbinding. Regulators in E.U. countries, however, are required to give them the “utmost consideration” in drafting national policies, as well as having the choice to interpret the guidelines as they see fit.

Consequently, the guidelines are likely to influence many E.U. nations in their treatment of cloud computing and privacy, particularly the recommendation that regulators accept third-party audits paid for by cloud service companies as proof that personal information is being handled, even in non-E.U. countries, under E.U. privacy laws. Previously, some E.U. regulators had been reluctant to accept the audits.

Without doubt, such steps taken by the European Commission exemplify the lending of greater support to cloud computing than ever before, and therefore represent the changing face of cloud computing in Europe as a whole by generating a more permissive outlook to its implementation. Not only could its adoption revolutionise public services, making it easier to provide services that are integrated, effective and at a lower cost, but it also has the potential to offer nation states as much as €200bn in economic benefits, according to Kroes.

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