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Security concerns haunt Swiss government cloud data plans

Alibaba Group logo
Chinese technology company Alibaba was controversially one of the companies to be awarded a Swiss government cloud storage contract. Keystone / Christian Charisius

Fresh criticism has been leveled at the inclusion of Chinese company Alibaba in a future cloud storage system for Swiss government data.

The Tages Anzeiger newspaper has uncovered documents that detail the concerns of Swiss Data Protection Commissioner Adrian Lobsiger during the tender process.

Last summer, the government awarded the CHF110 million ($120 million) contract to United States companies Amazon, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle – plus Alibaba.

Lobsiger has already voiced criticism in the media that some of his privacy concerns were not properly addressed by the government.

On Saturday, the Tages Anzeiger revealed documentsExternal link that detailed his recommendations before the contract was awarded.

Lobsiger had called for more stringent privacy requirements to be inked into the deals. These included a demand that centres be located either in Switzerland or a country with equivalent data protection rules.

The data watchdog also wanted contractors to submit to audits and regular check-ups to make sure their services complied with international standards.

Lobsiger is now calling for transparency when government departments thrash out deals with the five companies to store public data. “It must be clear to the public that everything is being implemented in compliance with data protection regulations,” he said.

The government told the newspaper that rigorous data protection assessments will be carried out by each department before choosing specific providers. It has always maintained that sensitive data will not be put into the cloud storage system.

The cloud storage deal has attracted a fair amount of criticism, not least because a Chinese company was included while Swiss operators were perceived to have been frozen out.

The media has also been critical of opaque communication from the government.

US tech giant Google went to the Swiss courts to challenge the decision to leave it out of the tender award, but soon dropped its legal appeal.

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