Enabling EU organizations through digital sovereignty
May 2022 by Marc Jacob
European organizations are moving their operations and data to the cloud in increasing numbers to enable collaboration, drive business value, and transition to hybrid work. However, the cloud solutions that underpin these powerful capabilities must meet an organization’s critical requirements for security, privacy, and digital sovereignty. We often hear from European Union policymakers and business leaders that ensuring the sovereignty of their cloud data, through regionalization and additional controls over administrative access, is crucial in this evolving landscape.
Today, we’re announcing Sovereign Controls for Google Workspace, which will provide digital sovereignty capabilities for organizations, both in the public and private sector, to control, limit, and monitor transfers of data to and from the EU starting at the end of 2022, with additional capabilities delivered throughout 2023. This commitment builds on our existing Client-side encryption, Data regions, and Access Controls capabilities.
Offering enhanced customer controls, including Client-side encryption
Encryption is an important technical control that limits a cloud provider’s access to customer data. Google Workspace already uses the latest cryptographic standards to encrypt all dataat rest and in transit between our facilities. The European Data Protection Board recommendations include encryption as part of the supplementary measures to protect data. Google Workspace is leading the way on such measures with our Client-side encryption feature that allows customers to continue benefiting from the powerful innovations of Google Cloud while retaining complete confidentiality and control over their data.
Google Workspace’s unique approach to client-side encryption provides our customers with authoritative privacy control over their data through encryption keys that they can hold on site, within a nation’s borders, or within any other boundary they define. Google never has access to the keys or key holders, which means the data is indecipherable to us and we have no technical ability to access it. We deliver this level of encryption without the need for legacy desktop clients, while maintaining the same high-quality experience for your users such as online co-authoring.
Organizations can choose to use Client-side encryption pervasively across all their users, or create rules that apply to specific users, organizational units, or shared drives. Client-side encryption is now generally available for Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides, with plans to extend the functionality to Gmail, Google Calendar, and Meet by the end of 2022.
Expanding data location controls
Data regions already allow our customers to control the storage location of their covered data at-rest. We will enhance this capability by the end of 2023 through expanded coverage of data storage and processing in-region along with an in-country copy.
As employees and organizations adopt new ways of working in a hybrid world, they need secure access to data to drive key business outcomes. But this trend, combined with complex technical architectures, presents significant challenges to retaining control over where data resides.
Our cloud-native architecture means that Google Workspace functions fully within a browser, without requiring caches or installed software on employee devices. We adopt a zero-trust approach, with built-in security that provides controls to geo-fence devices and users through Context Aware Access. Moreover, admins can set sharing boundaries and define rules that govern user communication.
In short, we empower admins with critical capabilities that can give them granular control over the flow of their data without hindering the modern collaboration capabilities that form the foundation of Google Workspace. We are enabling organizations to strike the right balance between data location and seamless collaboration across teams, partners, and customers.
Control and transparency for administrative access
When moving to a cloud-based service, organizations need greater visibility and control over all forms of administrative access to their systems, including who has access, the nature and circumstances of that access, and the ability to specify that only certain personnel—in designated countries or regions—have access. These capabilities are core to our approach for meeting evolving digital sovereignty standards.
Building on this approach, we will implement a series of new Access Controls by the end of 2023 that will enable customers to:
• Restrict and/or approve Google support access through Access Approvals.
• Limit customer support to EU-based support staff through Access Management.
• Ensure round-the-clock support from Google Engineering staff, when needed, with remote-in virtual desktop infrastructure .
• Generate comprehensive log reports on data access and actions through Access Transparency, which is already available in GA.
Sovereign Controls for Google Workspace will deliver digital sovereignty through a comprehensive set of capabilities for organizations working in and across EU regions. In parallel, Google Cloud will continue to provide customers with legal mechanisms for international data transfer, which will include making the protections offered by the new EU data transfer framework available once it is implemented.
We remain committed to equipping our customers in Europe and across the globe with powerful technical solutions that help them adapt to, and stay on top of, a rapidly evolving regulatory landscape. We’ve designed and built Google Workspace to operate on a secure foundation, providing capabilities to keep our users safe, their data secure, and their information private. Digital sovereignty is core to our ongoing mission in Europe and elsewhere, and a guiding principle that customers can rely on now and into the future.