Letters to the Editor

Opportunity knocks in space of data protection

Dear Sir,

There are conversations working around the business and tech circles in Bermuda on how the country could attract a tech giant such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook to our shores, particularly for a data centre.

Data centres are key storage locations where everything from company records, your Facebook and Instagram photos, e-mails, Netflix videos and everything in between is stored for quick access. There are thousands of them around the world, but none of any great significance located in Bermuda.

Attracting such a company would bring major recognition to the country in many areas; for instance, the Government has been working to attract more undersea cable companies as well as a big push in fintech and technology in general. Let’s not forget the positive increase in highly skilled jobs such a company would bring as well.

First, and especially when it comes to any major company building out a data centre, there must be access to cheaper power.

Having a special economic zone that Belco provides cheap rates to — I’m referring to a 3 to 8 cents per kWh-type pricing — is one significant item that has to be addressed. Power in the United States and Canada is much cheaper than what we see in Bermuda for many reasons, but this is one area that prevents these companies from having a legitimate interest here for data storage. Servers and the cooling required for them are very energy intensive.

We’re already a secure location that, even with a threat of hurricanes, weathers quite well. This is owing to our well-built infrastructure, having unique protective geography, being farther north — in cooler waters — than other “Caribbean” nations and having a well-thought-out building code that handles adverse weather well.

Second, and a quick win for Parliament, is to pass general data protection regulation or similar legislation that would protect data encryption, especially for companies based in Bermuda.

Australia has done the opposite: in 2018, it passed a law requiring companies be able to access any stored data, including data encrypted by its customers that the company has literally no access to. This was done via the typical way freedoms are stripped from the people — all in the name of “security” and “antiterrorism”.

That is frankly an impossible task without developing a “skeleton” key that could undermine the entire underpinnings of encrypted data at baseline. Imagine a scenario where your bank account login could be compromised, hacked, by a leaked “common key” and you start to see the iceberg heading towards Australia.

This law has been resoundingly criticised from all corners of business, technology and security experts and industry, and has many companies contemplating leaving Australia.

If Bermuda would to plant a “legal flag” into our sand, companies looking for a secure location to store their data, including large tech giants, would find us even more attractive.

It’s a simple 1-2 combination. Lower the cost of energy in Bermuda to be competitive with North America and provide legislation to protect data security in Bermuda. We could find ourselves on the upswing of a new technology surge to help boost an economy in dire need of assistance.