Cloud computing faces a major obstacle in Europe
In the world of ideas, cloud computing has the potential to revolutionize the way people work. By bundling the processing power of thousands of computer servers, a company, for example, could allow two employees from different countries who speak different languages to communicate directly by phone, using voice recognition software to process what is being said and translation programs to interpret it into another language. The result, ideally, would be a seamless conversation, without struggle and without the limitations of speaking a foreign language.
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.
Facing legal obstacles in Europe, the U.S. businesses with the greatest stake in cloud computing — primarily Microsoft, Google, H.P. and Oracle — are lobbying lawmakers to loosen restrictions on cross-border data transfers. Alternatively, some are developing new methods to make cloud computing work within Europe’s complicated legal landscape.