You cannot ignore the risks to your hosted data any longer

You cannot ignore the risks to your hosted data any longer

US District Judge Loretta Preska has told Microsoft that it must hand over customer information being stored in a data centre in Dublin to federal prosecutors. And she made it clear that her decision would stand wherever the data was stored overseas on the basis that ‘It’s a question of control, not a question of the location of the information’. In other words, customer emails and other account information held by Microsoft are business records that can be seized by the feds wherever they are.

Microsoft has been given leave to appeal this decision. The worrying thing is it is part of a trend that resulted in the hasty introduction of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers bill (DRIP) covered elsewhere in this blog. And it means that everything you do with all the confidential information used in your practice needs to be a clear and measured decision to avoid falling into an increasing number of traps.

Snowden and the NSA episodes should have got the message home by now that your data isn’t secure. Whether it is volunteered to Facebook as a wall message, or a statement sent to a colleague via insecure email or a wodge of court documents stored and accessed via third party document sharing software, makes no difference. You are playing a dangerous game these days holding your data on a server which is sitting outside of an increasingly narrow safe zone.

Until recently, this safe zone was considered (for our purposes) to include UK based servers and those held within the EU. This includes those owned by US data companies if there is full compliance with the safe harbour principles, which allow US organisations to comply with the EU directive on Data Protection.

Now the question of geographical safety under the Data Protection Act is starting to look unclear in the light of both DRIP and the Microsoft decision.

Three things you should do now:

1. Stop using third party document sharing software and any other method of data communication that isn’t hosted in the UK
2. Review your data protection policies across all the devices currently being used in your business – and that includes mobile devices owned by your staff but being used for business
3. Find out where any off-site data is currently located, including back-ups. If they are not UK based, plan to move inshore as soon as possible.

This post was written by:

- who has written 11 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Founding designer of iLaw products. Practiced criminal defence work for the majority of her legal career, dual-handing duty and crown court work with being a franchising manager. Worked for DMH Stallard, Griffith Smith, Bosley & Co and Tuckers Solicitors. Her unique career path has also taken her deep into online retail and Christina is an expert at working with business owners and partners to develop new or better ways of enabling law firms to survive and thrive in the ever changing legal environment.

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