Google may be building data centers as fast as any other company on Earth (if not faster), but the criteria it uses to decide where to put those facilities are, at least, unusual.
Google is so concerned with its ability to hold and protect customer data that the laws and tenor of national governments have become primary considerations in its choice of new datacenter locations, according to Peter Jones, the search engine giant’s program manager for global infrastructure, in a presentation yesterday at the DataCentresEurope conference.
Google and other companies struggle to keep straight the varied laws on data privacy across Europe, let alone the rest of the world. “The primary consideration is information privacy and security. Since we’re dealing with customers’ data this is a make or break criteria,” Jones told U.K.-based technology publication V3.co.uk. “Beyond that you have issues such as corruption and importing equipment as you go further down the list [of site criteria] but how we keep data secure is the headline issue.”
Google’s caution may be attributable to its previous loss in a very public dispute with China about the censorship of search results and identities of subscribers; it’s also crossed swords with the U.S. government and the FBI. In April, Google asked a federal court to “set aside the legal process” by allowing it to resist “national security” letters from the FBI that require companies to give up information both the companies and customers may consider private.
Google has also had its own run-ins with privacy protections, including a $7 million penalty after it admitted that its StreetView vehicles had inadvertently collected information about private WiFi networks while photographing public streets.