Microsoft vs the US Government could have implications for cloud services in BC

The US Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments in a cloud computing case that could have implications for the BC higher education sector interested in using cloud services.

For years, FIPPA legislation in British Columbia has been both a hurdle and a blessing (depending on your perspective. Mine changes almost daily) for post-secondary institutions wishing to utilize cloud based services that store data outside of Canada. Section 30.1  of BC's privacy legislation states that, “A public body must ensure that personal information in its custody or under its control is stored only in Canada and accessed only in Canada,” unless prior consent is received or another section of FIPPA supersedes this requirement.

Recently, we have seen moves from companies like Microsoft and Amazon to set up data centres here in Canada, in part to help meet the data sovereignty requirements of legislation like BC's. The belief being that local data centres can help contain the data within Canadian legislative boundaries. It is the same strategy/belief that led Microsoft to set up data centres in Ireland.

Which is the crux of this US Supreme Court case currently underway. The US Department of Justice is trying to get Microsoft to turn over emails that are stored in their Ireland data centre.

If Microsoft loses this case and are forced to hand over emails to the US government that are stored on their servers in Ireland, then they could conceivably be forced to hand over data stored on their data servers in Canada at some point in the future. Meaning that having data stored in an Amazon or Microsoft data centre in Canada would be a moot point as it would not be able to provide the level of data sovereignty protection FIPPA needs.

When the most recent review of BC's FIPPA legislation occurred,  post-secondary organizations like BCNET and thr Research Universities Council of BC made the case to the BC privacy commission that section 301. is a barrier to the use of cloud based systems in higher ed in this province. At that time, the commission noted that, with Microsoft, Adobe and Amazon setting up data centres in Canada, that should provide adequate services to Canadians and satisfy the FIPPA legislation. However, should Microsoft lose this case and be forced to turn over data stored in Ireland, it could be a moot point.

On the other side, it could be a real opportunity for Canadian organizations who do provide cloud service, like BCNET through their EduCloud service, and spur a greater demand for self hosted applications and Canadian based companies to emerge with made in Canada education technology solutions .

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Antigonish 2.0: A Way for Higher Ed to Help Save the Web

Antigonish 2.0: A Way for Higher Ed to Help Save the Web

Bonnie Stewart, EDUCAUSE Review, May 8, 2017
If there is a positive to take out of the shit show that was the US election, it is that it has proven to be a rallying cry to many educators to ramp up efforts on increasing our collective digital & media literacy. Projects like Mike Caulfield’sDigital Polarization Initiative,  higher education courses on understanding fake news (including the beautifully titled Calling Bullshit course, with shades of Howard Rheingold’s Crap Detection work from another web era), and the numerous individual initiatives by educators helping students become critical thinkers about information. In an age when (mis)information is used as a political weapon, these types of efforts are important.

Antignoish 2.0 is one of those projects that I have been following. In addition to the focus on digital & media literacy, Bonnie Stewart’s project is firmly rooted in an interesting adult education model with ties to the 19th centry co-op movement known as The Antigonish Movement. Antigonish 2.0 borrows many of the elements of the original movement in an attempt to develop a contemporary distributed network rooted in local institutions and communities.

Antigonish 2.0, therefore, is a community capacity-building project about media literacy and civic engagement. In this era of profound political polarization, disinformation, and fake news, the project aims to frame and foster narratives of democracy and contribution. Antigonish 2.0 revisions the cooperative adult education tradition of the Antigonish Movement for a digitized world.

Despite the model being over 100 years old, it feels incredibly relevant today as it is designed to leverage both the potential of the network and local communities in a unified vision. The question is: what role will higher education play in supporting initiatives like Antigonish 2.0?

Antigonish 2.0 offers a call to colleges and universities around the globe to consider how their resources—staff, faculty, students, space, digital infrastructures, brands—can be deployed at all three layers of the initiative.

But in order to do that, higher ed has to be willing not to look the way it has always looked. It has to be willing to lend a portion of its infrastructure and its time and its endowments to this integrated model of network plus institution plus community, even though this model does not factor in prestige rankings or research dollars. It has to be willing to look to people both in and beyond classroom walls as part of its purview.

Photo: Moses Coady Mosaic by The Coady Institute CC-BY-NC. Moses was the founder of the original Antignoish movement in the 1920’s.

This piece was first published in the EdTech Factotum newsletter.