Main content

Flee the NSA to Canada and the UK, say Canada and the UK

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan January 12, 2014
Is this it then? The fabled mass panic of non-US cloud computing users away from US providers in fear of the NSA deciding to have a nose around in private data? Maybe not, but it's probably the first of many in 2014.

English speaking countries flags isolated on white
Is this it then? The fabled mass panic of non-US cloud computing users away from US providers in fear of the NSA deciding to have a nose around in private data?

You’ll recall from last year that there have been dire predictions of the impact on the US cloud industry of NSA-related fears about data integrity and privacy among non-US nations. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) predicated last August that US cloud computing providers would eventually lose 20% of their overseas customers by 2016.

Meanwhile in Europe, senior figures in the European Commission have been stirring up NSA related fears and paranoia to drive forward an opportunistic political programme that involves tougher data protection and what is seen outside Europe as an anti-US agenda.

But to date the exodus hasn’t been evidenced - although if it is to occur it will take some quarters to be readily visible perhaps.

Still, according to the findings of a study by Canadian hosting firm Peer 1 Hosting, it seems that the Brits and the Canadians may be wobbling, although even by these numbers we’re still talking about a minority here with 25% of the combined 300 respondents from both countries saying they are moving data away from the US.

Screen Shot 2014-01-12 at 14.10.59

The top hosting concerns defined by the survey were security (96%) and data privacy (82%) - and its the NSA mess that’s triggering a lot of this.

The Canadians are the most jittery about what their neighbour is up to: one (33%) of Canadian respondents say they are moving their company’s data away from the US as a result of the NSA scandal, whereas only 21% of UK respondents plan to do the same.

Screen Shot 2014-01-12 at 14.02.00

Fortunately for a hosting company based in Canada that polled Canadian and UK respondents, the two countries cited by respondents as being the most trustworthy for hosting data were - all together now! - Canada and the UK. Who knew, who knew?

In case we haven’t got the message, another result finds that Canadian users like dealing with firms headquartered in Canada while UK users like dealing with firms headquartered in the UK.

Screen Shot 2014-01-12 at 14.15.54

At the same time, the US remains the most popular place for organisations to host their data outside of their own countries. The Brits don’t seem to have taken a fancy to Canada much or vice versa to an even lesser extent - so much for Commonwealth solidarity!

Rattling cages

Flippancy aside, it is clear that the NSA has rattled the cages of data management professionals. The study quotes one anonymous Canadian IT decision maker as stating the NSA row:

“Discouraged me from using US based hosting services due to meta tag surveillance [sic] techniques and the fact that all communication is monitored since I am a foreigner. I cannot trust any US based company for secure communications even though we contract to a US based company.”

One UK counterpart goes that much further:

“It has made me realise that for privacy I must revert to writing letters by hand or on an old typewriter.”


Fortunately other comments quoted are of a less ‘dramatic’ nature, but a couple of other study results do raise questions about how qualified some of the respondents are in terms of making an informed, impartial decision. Some 60% openly admit they don’t know as much as they should about data privacy laws while 44% confess to being confused by privacy and security laws.

Screen Shot 2014-01-12 at 14.08.24

More interesting is the assertion from 81% of respondents that it is most important to them to know where the data precisely where the data is stored, an entirely legitimate point that shouldn’t require NSA panic to be near the top of any data managers list of things to fret about.


Before anyone gets too carried away, bear in mind this study is based on the findings from a 10-minute survey of 300 small companies of 250 employees or less in two countries.

In fact, I imagine that the same poll conducted in the Eurozone heartland would produce even stronger support for such fears (and encouragement for those in Brussels hell-bent on the political exploitation of such fears!).

The reason I’m flagging it up here is to highlight that I suspect this is only the first of many such surveys that we’re going to see in 2014. We can expect many more dire predictions of doom and disaster to come - and quite possibly a very unhealthy atmosphere of fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Graphics: source -  The Impact of the NSA on Hosting Decision Makers in the UK and Canada

A grey colored placeholder image