EU sees big U.S. tech investment post Snowden

A top European Union official said Tuesday that more U.S. businesses are opening data centers in the EU, hoping to not lose overseas business as the EU considers new data protection laws.

“This is proof to us that, in anticipation of Europe becoming a trust center for data, big global corporations, in particular from the United States, are investing in Europe,” said Paul Nemitz, a director of the European Commission’s Justice Unit, according to The Wall Street Journal.


Nemitz, who was speaking at a workshop organized by France’s data-protection watchdog agency, said his remarks were based on new data collected by the EU.

“We already see a substantial increase of foreign-direct investment in digital technologies in storage centers, data centers, processing,” he said.

In recent months, a number of major U.S. tech companies have targeted the EU for new data centers.

In October, Amazon said it would open a German data center — its second in the EU — to ensure users can keep their data within EU borders. Google and IBM have revealed similar plans in recent months.

EU residents have grown increasingly wary of American-based tech services since government leaker Edward Snowden revealed a number of National Security Agency (NSA) spy programs that collected information from tech companies.

“We feel we are losing control over our data,’’ said Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, head the French data protection authority, during Monday’s conference, according to The New York Times.

Some analysts have estimated the disclosures about U.S. surveillance programs could cost the U.S. cloud industry up to $180 billion.

EU lawmakers have been critical of U.S. data protection laws, urging Congress to curb the NSA’s ability to collect personal information.

Congressional inaction has spurred the EU to move forward with its own efforts at data protection legislation.

“There must be certain limitations to the collection, and these limitations are governed by the principle of necessity and proportionality,” Nemitz said, according to the Journal.

The Senate recently failed to move forward with a bill to stop some of the NSA’s spy programs. The next Congress is expected to revisit the issue.

The EU isn't waiting.

“Data protection is at a crossroads, and it’s important that Europe speaks with one voice,” Falque-Pierrotin said, according to the Times.