Head in the clouds? Call for New Zealand to take control of data storage

Did you know that the FBI could take a copy of your data held in New Zealand if they got legal permission in the US first, and you might never even know it?

Some Maori are expressing concern about the offshore control of New Zealand data.
Photo: 123rf

This, and a host of other reasons, inspire Maori to gain more control over their own data by building cloud storage here.

The cloud – it’s basically someone else’s internet-connected computers that you can put data on and get help working on it from anywhere in the world you are – has the counterpart that it most often means that someone else has access to your data.

And if that cloud storage owner is based in the US or Australia, those countries have specific laws that apply to it – and that gives their agencies like law enforcement the ability to access it. : United States through his ‘Cloud Law’ and Canberra through its Anti-encryption laws of 2018.

This is at the end of the cloud control problem. And if you’re not a criminal, you might not have much to worry about.

But there are many other concerns, and yet the trend is increasingly to “offshore” more and more data, led by the government.

A new report questions that and outlines ways to change things. It is by Professor Tahu Kukutai and the operational arm Te Kāhui Raraunga of the Data Iwi Leaders Group.

“Agencies are rolling out all these different initiatives – most of them are doing it without any adequate commitment,” Professor Kukutai told RNZ.

“Instead of just making these one-sided decisions to outsource not just Maori data, but in fact all New Zealander data… Maori need to be involved in system-level decisions.”

In 2012, the government was worried enough about data misuse and loss of control, it small agencies using office productivity public cloud services.

But by 2016 a cloud-first policy had entered. As the country lacked major cloud providers, this led to offshoring.

Lingering concerns were allayed when the Privacy Commissioner decided to store their data in Australia with Microsoft in 2018.

Industry player RNZ, who agreed not to name, said: “A lot of agencies saw this as a green light.

“The data sovereignty issues are almost a lost cause because everything has moved very quickly to Microsoft and Amazon, and if you try to swim against the tide, it’s very difficult.”

The implication since 2016 is that offshoring is a no-brainer for safety, cost and convenience.

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Professor Tahu Kukutai.
Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

But Professor Kukutai’s study calls into question that, by saying that onshore, local ownership can be very secure.

“We are simply pointing out that the offshore solution, owned by foreigners, is not as beneficial as current government rhetoric suggests,” the report said.

Professor Kukutai said there had to be a choice, for the good of all.

“It actually has to be a strategic investment in a wider range of options, and taking a cross-generational approach to data, as taonga, means we can actually start investing locally – it doesn’t just mean putting our data in AWS in Sydney,” she said.

AWS, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft dominate cloud services globally.

Masses of New Zealand government data are with Amazon in Sydney, although the two US giants have pledged – with few details – to spend billions to build cloud storage there.

NZTech said AWS is building in Auckland with the data center scheduled to operate in 2024.

For eight years, there has also been a locally owned option, Catalyst Cloud.

It just got government approval for public agencies to use it — “level playing field now,” said Don Christie, who runs its parent company, Catalyst IT.

Christie has business reasons for talking about losing control of the cloud, pointing out that Europeans are getting nervous and looking for local providers.

He said the government embarked on outsourcing in 2016 and is not listening now.

“We often hear that there is a technical decision made to choose an overseas service, and that it is above someone’s compensation to consider data sovereignty issues and what it happens,” Christie told RNZ.

“And it seems to me that most people just push it away as something they don’t want to have to think about.”

The government is currently in the process of refreshing the cloud-first policy.

The Data Iwi leadership group told RNZ that it had had two or three meetings with officials, who it said seemed very keen to address the absence of Te Tiriti, Te Ao Māori – worldview Maori – and Maori data sovereignty in existing policy.

Entrepreneurs like Ben Tairea don’t wait. It sows micro-clouds of sovereignty – computers in people’s closets that they can connect to from anywhere in the world.

“That’s exactly what we see happening.

“We have iwi, hapu, whenua, marae trusts that have these computers hosted anywhere, you know, it could be in someone’s house.

“You know, I personally have my own pātaka or family cloud server that’s running in a little closet in my living room,” Tairea said.

Palmerston North co-founder of the whakapapa digital check-in site Ahau said it takes a bit of tech savvy and gets around the problem of aligning your values ​​with the values ​​of a big cloud service. , and your pocket with their fees.

Tairea said the government may be consulting heavily on offshoring cloud services and other digital moves, but if that’s the case Maori can’t see it and it needs to become more transparent.

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