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Does the UK slide down the cloud rankings matter?

In light of the recent BSA findings that the UK has dropped down the rankings of a good place to use the cloud Billy MacInnes wonders if that is a terrible thing

At first glance, I suppose I should be unpleasantly surprised that the UK has fallen down the rankings in the 2016 BSA Global Cloud Computing Scorecard. I wouldn’t go so far as to be alarmed but it can’t be good when the country slips two spaces down the rankings from 7th to 9th place because “it was overtaken by faster-moving nations”. In case you’re wondering, the countries that have improved at the UK’s expense since the last scorecard in 2013 are Canada (4th) and Italy (7th).

According to the BSA, the fall down the table “is a sign that the UK is in danger of lagging behind other faster-moving nations in creating an ideal legal and regulatory environment for cloud computing”. It argues that “outdated data registration laws are acting as a barrier to some cloud services”.

BSA president and CEO, Victoria Spinel, said it was “worrying to see the UK starting to fall behind other faster-moving nations in creating policies which enable cloud innovation”.

The UK is outranked by three fellow EU countries: Italy, France and Germany. The BSA criticises all three for privacy laws that include onerous and cumbersome registration requirements that appear unnecessary or act as a cost barrier for the use of cloud computing.

Supporters of Brexit might take comfort in the belief that removing the UK from EU might lead to the introduction of less onerous registration requirements and help to boost its standing in the overall rankings. However, if UK cloud services needed to interact with the EU, they would still be bound by EU laws.

In any case, some observers might question the ranking of the US in second place given the revelations from Edward Snowden in 2013 about the extent of the National Security Agency’s internet and phone surveillance activities. In what some might consider to be a classic understatement, the BSA merely notes that there is “ongoing debate and reform in the US regarding the balance between national security surveillance and privacy protection”. In fact, the US ranks 14th out of 24 in terms of data privacy.

If anything, the US score appears to be skewed by its lead role in promoting free trade and its support for industry-led standards & international harmonisation of rules. While those are both important factors, they don’t overcome the major concern of many people regarding the security and privacy of their data when it is stored in the cloud, especially if it is based in another jurisdiction or territory.

It is probably worth mentioning that the BSA marks down the UK’s score in terms of promoting free trade because of its insistence on the use of “open standards principles”. Also, according to the BSA’s criteria, countries like the UK and Italy lose marks because they have registration requirements for data controllers. Again, others might view those findings in a positive light.

The value and credibility people attach to the BSA rankings will depend on how highly they rate data privacy and security when it comes to cloud computing. For the people whose data it is, that could be the over-riding issue but it may not be for those providing the cloud services. Cloud “innovation” is all well and good but people might not view it so kindly if part of that innovation leads to sacrificing some of their privacy.

This was last published in May 2016

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