Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cloud Computing in Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations

After lunch I was starting to doze off at the "Australia US Alliance Conference in Canberra Australia-US: The Alliance in an Emerging Asia" conference in Canberra (streamed live online). However, there was mention of "Cloud Computing" in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. Cloud computing allows data and processing to be provided online from a remote data centre. This is technically relatively easy to do with today's reliable fibre optic telecommunications and standards. However, it creates considerable regulatory issues. As an example, many government agencies and companies are subject to privacy rules. It may be easy and cheap to store your client's data in another country, but if that country does not have compatible privacy laws, it may be illegal. This applies not just to governments, but to banks, other financial institutions, universities, schools and other organisations.

In addition to the law the actual practises in countries need to be considered. As an example, there have been concerns over security agencies accessing data in US systems. The US government's response has been to reassure their citizens that these measures are targeting foreigners. However, those foreigners include the Australian government and citizens. Another example that Hong Kong has its own data protection laws, but their laws are subject to Chinese government security concerns. It therefore has to be assumed that data stored in cloud services hosted in Hong King and the USA will be read by both the US and Chinese governments.

Part of the discussion I found bizarre at the conference was that the Uber Taxi Application was discussed as a point of contention in international trade negotiations. It seemed odd that this very small application would be worth discussing in such negotiations. A far more significant issue would be trade protection for the manufacture of ships. The USA uses safety and security regulations to limit access to its markets for foreign shipyards. In return Australia has generous subsidies for Australian shipyards (although the current Australian government has made moves to buy more warships overseas).

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