The New York Times takes a look at the issue of cloud computing in Europe. Cloud computing is when you upload, store and access your data at an online service owned or operated by others. Millions of consumers use cloud computing services such as Web-based e-mail, online photo or video databases, or Internet calendar services. (Read a previous post for some of the privacy and civil liberty questions that cloud services can raise.)
Such cloud-based breakthroughs face a formidable obstacle in Europe, however: strict privacy laws that place rigid limits on the movement of information beyond the borders of the 27-country European Union.
European governments fear that personal information could fall prey to aggressive marketers and cybercriminals once it leaves the jurisdictions of individual members, a concern that may protect consumers but one that hinders the free flow of data essential to cloud computing. […]
Cloud computing, which allows companies to tap enormous computing power via the Internet without having to invest in the infrastructure themselves, has grown rapidly in the United States under a legal system that permits the sale and transfer of many forms of private data. […]
At the H.P. Labs in Bristol, England, researchers are devising ways to encrypt data before it is sent into a cloud computing center and then decrypt it after it leaves the cloud, thus addressing the privacy concerns of many European governments.
Another solution being studied is to give individuals the ability in advance to set the degree of privacy control on each part of their personal information in the cloud by digitally tagging bits of the data. Under this model, a person could make an e-mail address available to marketers, while shielding a phone number and street address from unwanted solicitations.