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Under the European Commission's strategy for "Unleashing the potential of cloud computing in Europe," announced in 2012 and described in my recent book, Cloud Computing for Lawyers and Executives—A Global Approach, Second Edition, several actions were to be undertaken. The first action item was to address cloud standards and voluntary certification schemes for cloud providers, and the second action item was to provide “safe and fair” cloud contracts. To address the latter, the European Commission in 2013 set up an expert group to work on the terms and conditions for cloud computing contracts.

The overall goal is to find a set of balanced terms that can protect those—especially individual consumers and small- and medium-sized enterprises—who do not have the expertise or economic heft to modify cloud providers’ standard agreements. These model agreements not only build trust among potential cloud constituents but can also help support the EU’s data protection regime.

At its first meeting in November 2013, the Expert Group on Cloud Computing Contracts—made up of individuals from EU countries and bar associations—looked at the following topics: pre-contract information (consumer rights, data protection and liability); availability of service; modifications of the contract; switching/data portability; liability for non-performance; unfair terms; data location; data security; subcontracting, and ownership of digital content.

In February, ENISA published the Cloud Certification Schemes List for cloud service providers. These existing certification schemes could be used by cloud customers to help evaluate providers.

The initial list has five such certifications described in four categories: general information; underlying information security standard or best practices; assessments and certification of compliance, and current adoption and usage.

The five certifications are:

  • ISO 27001
  • Open Certification Framework
  • EuroCloud Star Audit
  • TÜV Certified Cloud Service
  • Security Rating Guide

Just prior, in November 2013, ETSI published its final report on Cloud Standards Coordination. The report produced more than 100 use-cases, the standards and specifications of numerous organizations applicable to the cloud and a mapping of cloud-related activities in the three phases of cloud-service acquisition, operation and termination. It takes a specific focus on cloud-service interoperability, security, privacy and service-level agreements.

Parliament’s Resolution

The European Parliament in December 2013 adopted its own resolution on “Unleashing the potential of cloud computing in Europe.” In it, Parliament underscored the need to offer “security and reliability commensurate to the increased risks flowing from the concentration of data and information in the hands of a limited number of providers” and the “obvious interest” in having more cloud servers on European soil to “foster trust by ensuring EU sovereignty over the servers.”

There was also an interest to “counter the risk that information is accessed directly or indirectly by foreign governments” and that member governments should “rely on EU cloud providers when processing sensitive data and information until satisfactory global rules on data protection have been introduced.”

The resolution also called on the European Commission to harmonize laws for intellectual property in the cloud; to speed up the European Cloud Partnership—the third action item from the commission’s cloud strategy; to ensure the cloud computing fully complies with EU data protection law, especially in regards to law enforcement, foreign governments and data transferred outside the EU, and to review the EU-U.S. Safe Harbor Agreement.

European Commission’s Vision

In October 2013, the European Commission released its vision of Secure Cloud Computing Services in Europe. This included its desire to make Europe “the world's leading trusted cloud region.” Rejecting a “Fortress Europe” mentality, it instead proposed that the region become the trusted place to host cloud services through its strong data protection regime. Acknowledging that cloud computing was “essential” for improving European productivity levels, it stated the appropriate response to the PRISM program was not fragmentation into national clouds but looking instead at building a pan-European single market for cloud computing, underscored by the legal protections of the new data protection regulation.

In March, Parliament approved the proposed General Data Protection Regulation following approval by the Parliament’s Committee for Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs in October 2013, thereby addressing the legal data protection requirements for cloud computing. This regulation must still be approved by the EU Council of Ministers.

To assist with the deployment of cloud services by public entities, ENISA in November 2013 issued the Good Practice Guide for Securely Deploying Governmental Clouds to encourage the implantation of national cloud strategies, identify barriers and ways to overcome them and describe best practices. The report also classified 23 European countries into the categories of “early adopters,” “well-informed,” “innovators” or “hesitants,” based on the existence of a government cloud strategy and the level of deployment of the government cloud. It provided 10 recommendations, consolidated as supporting development of EU governmental cloud strategy and cloud academic research; promoting the definitions of frameworks to address the “locality” problem and mitigate the “loss-of-control” problem; enhancing cloud compliance to EU and country-specific regulations, and developing a sustainable, governmental-cloud business model, frameworks for service-level agreements and certifications, security measures and privacy enhancements.

Finally, in January, the UK government, one of those designated an “early adopter,” published the CloudStore Buyers Guide, which explains how public-entity buyers can and should order cloud services from among over 13,000 currently available on the G-Cloud.

In November 2013, guidance was provided to cloud suppliers on complying with the UK’s Data Protection Act on which cloud services required accreditation; how to become accredited; the information assurance requirements, and writing appropriate cloud service descriptions.

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