July 01, 2024

Cloud data sovereignty: concerns, requirements, and solutions

Cloud data sovereignty: concerns, requirements, and solutions

The rise of cloud computing has revolutionized how organizations store, access, and manage their data. However, with this innovation comes a critical challenge: data sovereignty. As data crosses borders and resides in global data centers, organizations must navigate a complex landscape of local laws and regulations to ensure compliance and protect sensitive information. 

This article explores cloud data sovereignty’s key concerns, highlighting the implications for data privacy, legal compliance, and operational efficiency. Understanding these issues is essential for businesses seeking to leverage cloud technologies while maintaining control and security over their data.

Cloud data sovereignty updates

First, what is data sovereignty? Well, it is the idea that data stored in a location should be subject to the data privacy laws applicable to that location.

Cloud storage data sovereignty is continually evolving, driven by technological advancements, regulatory changes, and shifts in geopolitical dynamics. Keeping abreast of the latest updates in this field is crucial for organizations to ensure compliance and mitigate risks associated with data localization and cross-border data flows. This section highlights some of the recent developments impacting cloud data sovereignty.

Increased focus on encryption and privacy-enhancing technologies 

Two key areas are making significant strides in this regard, and they are as follows:

   Advanced encryption techniques:

  • End-to-End Encryption: This powerful tool scrambles data throughout its entire journey, from when it’s sent (in transit) to when it’s stored (at rest) and even while it’s being used. This focus on security ensures compliance with data protection laws and minimizes risks during international data transfers.
  • Homomorphic Encryption: Imagine being able to analyze information without ever needing to unlock it! Homomorphic encryption allows computations on encrypted data, keeping it private while enabling valuable insights to be extracted.

Privacy-enhancing technologies:

  • Zero Trust Architectures: This security approach is like a “never trust, always verify” system. These architectures implement strict access controls, constantly checking who and what is trying to access data, regardless of their location. Its layered defense significantly enhances overall data security.

Legislative developments

Countries worldwide are enacting new laws and updating existing regulations to address data sovereignty concerns. For instance, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has set a high standard for data protection, influencing other regions to implement similar frameworks. Recent updates include stricter enforcement mechanisms and higher penalties for non-compliance. Similarly, countries like Saudi Arabia, India, and Brazil have introduced comprehensive data protection laws that mandate local data storage and processing requirements.

Increasing push for standardization of regulations

There’s a growing push for standardization in cloud data sovereignty regulations across several countries. The goal here is to establish clear and concise regulations regarding data sovereignty, such that the interpretation of these regulations will be uniform across all companies operating in the same location. This would also help businesses navigate the complex legal landscape and ensure consistent data protection practices.

US-EU data transfer issues

A recent court ruling complicated how data flows between the EU and the US. The Schrems II decision by the European Union’s top court invalidated the Privacy Shield, a mechanism companies relied on. This has forced businesses to scramble for new ways to transfer data across both territories, such as using Standard Contractual Clauses. To address these issues, negotiations are underway to establish new frameworks that would provide legal certainty and ensure EU data remains protected.

These are some of the updates recorded in the cloud data sovereignty space. In the next section, we shall highlight some of the issues with cloud data sovereignty.

Data sovereignty issues in the cloud

Here are some of the challenges associated with data sovereignty and the cloud:

  • Conflicting data sovereignty laws across different countries

Cloud providers frequently store data across multiple countries to enhance performance and ensure redundancy. As a result, this data becomes subject to the laws of several jurisdictions simultaneously. The varying data protection laws in different countries can lead to potential conflicts. For example, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) might clash with the US CLOUD Act, which can compel US-based companies to provide access to data stored internationally.

  • Legal & compliance issues

Organizations must comply with the data protection laws of each country where their data is stored or processed, which can be both complex and costly. Legal disputes over data ownership and access rights can also arise, particularly when data is stored in jurisdictions with differing legal frameworks.

  • It could create operational challenges for global companies

Some countries mandate that data collected within their borders be stored and processed locally, which can limit the use of global cloud services and increase operational costs. Additionally, ensuring data can be easily and legally transferred between different jurisdictions and cloud providers presents a significant challenge.

  • Data privacy security issues

Storing data across borders increases the risk of data breaches, as different jurisdictions have varying standards and protocols for data security. Additionally, some countries have laws permitting government access to data stored within their borders, which can be problematic for businesses that must comply with stringent privacy regulations such as GDPR.

  • Cloud provider practices

Cloud providers are often not transparent about where data is stored and processed and the measures they take to ensure compliance with local laws. Additionally, they must take steps to ensure that Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and contracts address data sovereignty concerns, specifying data locations and compliance responsibilities.

If these issues are properly understood and addressed, organizations can more effectively manage the complexities of data sovereignty in cloud computing and ensure compliance with global data protection laws. You may also want to check our resource on data sovereignty in the cloud to learn more strategies for managing and protecting your cloud data.

Cloud data sovereignty requirements by country

As you would appreciate, cloud data sovereignty laws differ across countries and regions. In this section, we shall review the requirements under the European Union, China, and the United States (California precisely).

Data sovereignty cloud under the GDPR

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a comprehensive data protection law applicable to all organizations processing the personal data of individuals residing in the European Union (EU). It imposes strict data sovereignty requirements, significantly affecting cloud computing. Here are the key GDPR requirements related to data sovereignty:

  • Data localization and transfer

Data can be transferred outside the EU/EEA if the European Commission deems the receiving country to offer adequate data protection. In cases where sufficient decisions are lacking, transfers are permissible with appropriate safeguards, such as Binding Corporate Rules (BCRs), Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs), or adherence to codes of conduct. Derogations allow transfers under specific conditions, such as explicit consent from the data subject or when necessary for contract performance. Multinational companies can adopt BCRs, internal policies ensuring that all data transfers within the organization, including those to non-EU/EEA countries, adhere to GDPR standards.

  • Accountability & governance

Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIAs) are required by organizations when processing activities are expected to pose significant risks to the rights and freedoms of data subjects. This encompasses evaluating the impact of transferring data to various jurisdictions.

Additionally, organizations engaged in large-scale systematic monitoring or processing of sensitive data must appoint a data protection officer (DPO). The DPO is responsible for ensuring GDPR compliance, which includes supervising cross-border data transfers.

  • Data subject rights

Among other rights of data subjects regarding cloud data sovereignty, the GDPR preserves the individual’s right to be informed about the location their data is about to be transferred and the safeguards in place to protect it. The GDPR also secures their right to Access and Data Portability, entitling them to access their personal information and transfer it to another controller. Organizations are obligated to ensure secure access and transfer of data, adhering to GDPR standards, even when utilizing cloud services.

  • Data security measures

The GDPR mandates data encryption, whether at rest or in transit. This practice maintains data security, even when transferred to jurisdictions governed by different legal frameworks. Also, employing anonymization or pseudonymization techniques can mitigate risks associated with cross-border data transfers. These methods ensure that data can only be traced back to individual data subjects with supplementary information, enhancing overall data protection measures.

  • Legal obligations

Under the GDPR, organizations are required to establish contracts with cloud service providers, also known as processors, incorporating clauses that guarantee compliance with GDPR standards. These agreements specify the methods and locations where data can be processed. Additionally, organizations should conduct routine audits of their cloud providers to verify GDPR compliance. These audits ensure that the provider maintains appropriate data protection measures and adheres to standards for cross-border data transfers.

  • Data breach notification

In case of a data breach involving personal data transferred outside the EU/EEA, organizations are obligated to notify the relevant supervisory authority within 72 hours. In certain instances, they may also be required to inform the data subjects about the breach.

These are some of the key provisions of the GDPR regarding cloud data sovereignty. In the next section, we shall highlight some of the provisions of the Chinese PIPL regarding cloud data sovereignty.

Cloud data sovereignty under the Chinese Personal Information Law (PIPL)

The Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL) of China, provides a comprehensive framework aimed at safeguarding personal information within China. This legislation introduces specific provisions and requirements that significantly influence data sovereignty, particularly concerning cloud computing. Key data sovereignty requirements under the PIPL include the following:

  • Data localization requirements.

Critical Information Infrastructure Operators (CIIOs) in China are mandated to store personal information collected and generated within the country. If a need arises to transfer this personal information outside China, a security assessment conducted by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) is required. Additionally, the PIPL advocates for general data localization, recommending that personal information gathered within China be stored domestically, except when a necessity for its transfer abroad arises.

  • Cross-border data transfer requirements

Security assessments are required for organizations falling under certain categories. For instance, organizations handling substantial amounts of personal information or designated as Critical Information Infrastructure Operators (CIIOs). These assessments are organized by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) or an authorized agency.

Transfers of personal data can be facilitated through standard contracts established by the CAC. These contracts outline the rights and responsibilities of both the data exporter and recipient, ensuring that the recipient upholds protection standards equivalent to those mandated by the PIPL. Additionally, organizations have the option to attain certification from professional institutions to verify their compliance with PIPL requirements for cross-border data transfers. Data subjects must be fully informed about the specifics of cross-border transfers and must provide explicit consent for their data to be transferred outside China.

  • Data subjects rights

Data subjects possess the right to be informed regarding the processing of their personal information, which includes being told if their data will be transferred outside China, the identity of the data recipient, and the security measures in place. Additionally, data subjects can access their personal information and request corrections if inaccuracies or omissions are present. Furthermore, data subjects hold the right to request the deletion of their personal information under specific circumstances, such as when the processing purpose has been fulfilled or if consent is revoked.

  • Data protection measures

Organizations are mandated to employ strong encryption measures to safeguard personal information throughout storage and transmission, with particular emphasis on data transfers across borders. Furthermore, personal information ought to undergo anonymization or pseudonymization processes to mitigate risks associated with data processing and transfers.

  • Legal obligations

Contracts between organizations and cloud service providers(processors) are essential to guarantee compliance with PIPL regulations. These agreements should thoroughly outline processing activities, security protocols, and each party’s responsibilities. Additionally, organizations are encouraged to conduct routine audits of their cloud providers to verify adherence to the PIPL’s data protection standards, particularly regarding compliance with requirements for cross-border data transfers.

  • Breach notification

It mandates organizations to promptly inform relevant authorities and data subjects of a data breach if it occurs. Failing to do this will attract penalties.

To adhere to the PIPL regulations, organizations utilizing cloud services in China must undertake substantial measures to guarantee data sovereignty and protection. These measures encompass localizing data storage, conducting thorough security assessments for cross-border transfers, obtaining requisite certifications, implementing robust contractual and technical safeguards, etc.

Cloud data sovereignty under the Californian privacy law

California’s data privacy laws, notably the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), provide extensive regulations governing the management of personal data. These laws hold significance for cloud data sovereignty, which entails ensuring that data protection measures align with California’s specific requirements and standards. Key aspects of cloud data sovereignty under these laws include:

  • Data subject rights

These California data privacy laws grant consumers various rights concerning their personal information, such as:

  1. Right to know what their personal information would be used for.
  2. Right to request that their information be deleted.
  3. Right to opt out of the sale of their personal information
  4. Right to request an edit of personal information.
  5. Right to access personal information.

Organizations are obligated to ensure the rights of clients are fully protected.

  • Data protection requirements

Organizations are required to establish and uphold reasonable security measures to safeguard personal information against unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification, or disclosure. Additionally, personal data collection should be restricted to what is necessary for the intended purposes, with cloud providers ensuring the implementation of data minimization practices.

  • Service provider obligations

Contracts between businesses and cloud service providers should contain clauses ensuring that personal information processing aligns with CCPA and CPRA requirements. These provisions should specify the purposes of data processing, restrict the use or disclosure of personal information for unauthorized purposes, and mandate the implementation of security measures. Additionally, cloud service providers utilizing sub-processors must ensure that these entities also adhere to CCPA and CPRA regulations through rigorous vetting and contractual agreements binding them to the same standards.

  • Cross-border data transfers

While the CCPA and CPRA do not explicitly restrict cross-border data transfers, businesses must ensure that any transfers of personal data outside of California comply with the data protection requirements. This may involve implementing additional safeguards to ensure that data remains protected and that consumer rights can be enforced regardless of where the data is stored or processed.

  • Data breach notification

If a data breach occurs, businesses must inform affected California residents and the California Attorney General if the breach impacts over 500 residents. Cloud providers are expected to assist businesses in fulfilling these notification obligations by promptly reporting breaches and supplying requisite information.

These are some key points under California’s cloud data sovereignty laws. To comply with them, businesses and cloud service providers must implement robust data protection measures, ensure transparency, and support consumer rights as defined by the CCPA and CPRA. You may also want to review our data sovereignty compliance resource for more insight.

How InCountry helps companies stay compliant with cloud data sovereignty requirements

Ensuring compliance with data sovereignty requirements is straightforward with InCountry. As a cloud provider compliant with data sovereignty standards, we emphasize data encryption and other security protocols to enhance data security. Our state-of-the-art encryption protocols ensure that your data remains secure, while our platform’s robust data privacy controls guarantee that data handling practices align with stringent data protection regulations.

Moreover, InCountry supports legal mechanisms like Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) and Binding Corporate Rules (BCRs) to facilitate compliant cross-border data transfers. This ensures that data can move across borders while maintaining regulatory compliance.

InCountry’s expertise and tailored solutions ensure that your company complies with all applicable cloud data sovereignty laws. 

Contact us today to discuss your needs and learn how we can help you navigate the complexities of data sovereignty requirements.