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US rumoured to begin posturing at India

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The Trump administration is certainly an ‘enthusiastic’ one, and now it appears it might be turning its attention to India.

According to Reuters, the US is set to start beating its chest in front of the Indian Government, suggesting it will limit H-1B work visas for nations who force foreign firms to store data locally. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is currently readying his forces for an Indian excursion, and it would appear he is not in a friendly mood.

The H-1B work visas are popular with many US businesses and individuals around the world. The visa allows an individual to enter the US to temporarily work at an employer in a specialty occupation. Considering the foundations of Silicon Valley were built on its ability to attract the best talent from around the world, this has been a very beneficial programme for the US economy and those specialised workers who want to maximise their earnings.

Although there are no official quotas, it is believed that Indian citizens account for 70% of the H-1B visas which are issued each year. One outcome which is being suggested is that the country and its citizens would be limited to 15% of the annual total.

However, should the rumours prove to be true, it could widen an already strained relationship between the US and India. The US might be the most powerful and influential nation worldwide, but it is proving to be more of a bully than an ally at the moment.

Interestingly enough, this move could also put the US at odds with numerous other nations; India is not the only one which places data localisation requirements on foreign countries.

Russia and China are two countries which have very strict data localisation laws, though it will surprise few that the US does not have an issue in upsetting these governments. The European Union is another however. There are currently laws in place in Europe which make it difficult to transfer large volumes of data outside of the bloc, effectively acting as localisation requirements.

One of the best examples of how difficult the European laws can be to navigate is a battle between the US Government and Microsoft which ended last year. In this saga, the Department of Justice wanted access to emails stored on one of Microsoft’s Irish servers. Due to localisation complications, Microsoft argued the US had no jurisdiction and should not be granted access to the content. This battle continued for five years, with the passing of the CLOUD Act effectively ending the debate. It is still controversial, but this chapter has been closed.

Protection of a nations citizens and jurisdiction are two of the reasons sovereign nations are keen to implement data localisation laws, as well as the fact it provides a handy boost to the local economies. We suspect there will be objections if the US attempts to bully its way to eradicating these requirements.

Should the reports be true, another data privacy and protection debate could be on the horizon.

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