The European Commission (EC) has said that concerns over spying and data security in the wake of the PRISM scandal must not stop businesses from taking advantage of the benefits of cloud computing.
Ever since the scandal broke over the summer there have been concerns that the issues PRISM raised over the ability for government spies to access data would cause mistrust of cloud services.
The EC acknowledged this in a briefing document outlining its position on cloud computing use. “Users already had some reservations over security and confidentiality of information in the cloud, but PRISM aggravated this situation. Trust in cloud computing is suffering, which risks depressing the rate of cloud uptake and Europe lagging behind in cloud computing adoption,” it said.
However, the EC said despite this the benefits of cloud services must be recognised and utilised by firms in Europe to achieve the greatest economic potential.
“The cloud puts the best IT solutions within the reach of small firms and organisations,” it said. "These small firms are the bedrock of the European economy, and means the cloud will enable a particularly big leap forward for productivity in Europe if firms can be convinced to use it."
The EC also warned that while some have called for localised cloud initiatives this would further hold back cloud use and see Europe fall further behind in the digital market.
“Fragmentation or segmentation of the cloud computing market along national or regional lines could unfortunately hold back the development of cloud computing in Europe,” it said.
“National-level initiatives in particular where the software systems are adapted to local circumstances will not achieve a scale of rollout that would unlock the full economic benefits of cloud computing.”
The EC added that European firms should seek to build on the PRISM scandal by making themselves seen as the most trustworthy for storing data and running applications.
“Europe can pride itself on high standards for data protection and data security. This could be a competitive advantage for firms complying with these high standards. That is why Europe should aim to be the world’s most secure and trusted region for cloud computing,” he said.
“Second, the potential economies of scale of a truly functioning EU-wide single market for cloud computing, where the barriers to free data flow around the EU are substantially reduced, would be a massive boost to competitiveness."
The EC even went as far as to highlight some of the shortcomings of on-premise security in an effort to underline the benefits of cloud.
"The premises solutions are not completely secure, because they generally lack the ability to call on very high levels of professional security that cloud provisioning can deploy to counter some of the risks of traditional computer provisioning through implementation of more effective authentication, strong cyber defences, and state-of-the-art security implementation," it said.
"The technology systems on which they are based have the same vulnerabilities as cloud-based provisioning and indeed they may be less secure as software implemented in specific enterprise environments usually has extra vulnerabilities because the security features will not be standardised or as fully tested."
The PRISM fallout is still affecting the tech community, with German internet giant Deutsche Telekom pushing forward with plans to try and keep all its web traffic within Germany to avoid the reach of spies.
The use of the spying tactics has also led to legal challenges against the UK government, although the head of UK spy services including MI5 has defended the programmes used as vital for national security.
The latest issue of the V3 Tablet App features an in-depth look at the PRISM scandal and how it is affecting businesses. It also has an in-depth feature with the head of IT at Bet365 and our full review of the iPhone 5S device.
Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal.