If you’ve read a few of our cloud storage reviews or online backup reviews, you’ve probably seen that we make a big deal of which country a service is based in. This is because this can vary wildly from country to country, with some being exceptionally liberal, while others censor the Internet as strictly as possible.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most privacy-friendly countries in the world which, by extension, also make for a great place to base a cloud service, whether it’s a VPN, or a storage or backup service. You’ll notice that the U.S. isn’t on it, thanks to NSA surveillance as well as spying by ISPs. Another large economy, the People’s Republic of China, also is absent, because, well, just read our article on the best VPN services for China for a better idea.
Most Privacy-Friendly Countries
That’s not to say that the four countries below are choir boys either; after all, privacy-friendly and just plain friendly aren’t the same thing. However, if your cloud service provider is based in any of our four, rest assured that neither governments nor corporations will be getting a peek at your data.
You’ll likely notice that all the entries below are European, yet none are in the EU. This is because the European Union may have some of the best laws on paper, many member states have a tendency to disregard individual rights when it comes to terrorism, real or imagined. The Netherlands, for instance, recently passed a law that allows intelligence agencies to hack citizens, while the UK, well, it’s just scary there.
Though it’s wonderful that Silicon Valley can’t do whatever they want with EU citizens’ data thanks to the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield agreements and the like, it is a little too easy for governments to circumvent their own rules because terrorism. As laws that are applied somewhat arbitrarily aren’t very good laws, we here at Cloudwards.net much prefer the following four countries as they have far fewer exceptions to their privacy regulations.
A country known for keeping secrets, Switzerland probably has some of the tightest privacy laws on the globe. Swiss citizens’ privacy is guaranteed by article 13 of the constitution, as well as two federal laws, which are in turn supplemented by other laws on the canton level (think of them as states but way, way smaller). Under this set of laws and regulations, both the data of natural persons as well as companies are protected.
The result is that if you keep your files with a Swiss cloud storage service like pCloud (pCloud review) or Tresorit, they’ll be as safe from government snooping as they will ever be. On top of that, these two services also have their own airtight privacy policies and security protocols (including zero-knowledge security), meaning they’re as tight-lipped as any Swiss bank when it comes to your files.
Though picking a Swiss provider is always a good bet, the country by no means has a monopoly on privacy. Take Norway, for instance: the Personal Data Act protects the data stored and received by Norwegian operators against all kinds of interference and snooping. On top of that, Norwegian authorities also decided that privacy trumped the concerns of the entertainment industry regarding copyright.
As a result, Norway quickly turned into a haven for anyone into torrenting and The Pirate Bay settled there for a few months before being forced out (a willingness to protect privacy did not equate to a complete carte blanche). Currently, Norway is home to VyprVPN (VyprVPN review) and Jottacloud (Jottacloud review), two services that, much like their Swiss counterparts, supplement Norway’s privacy protection with security of their own.
Though not the most popular destination for cloud storage or VPN companies (our Cyberghost review is the only one we have on a Romania-based service), this Eastern European country has some seriously impressive legislation on the books when it comes to protecting its citizens’ data.
Not only does Romania have some tight legislation, it is also one of the few countries to have given its privacy watchdog some actual teeth. The National Supervisory Authority for Personal Data Processing (now there’s a mouthful) serves as a enforcing rather than advisory body and can hand out fines to anyone in breach of the rules. It also inspects companies’ data processing procedures to make sure no one plays hard and fast with people’s data.
Last but not least on this list is Iceland, which in many ways is a role model when it comes to progressive legislation. Its data protection laws came about not just from a concern regarding citizens’ data, but also in the interest of protecting journalists and whistleblowers. Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning would never have become wanted men under Icelandic law.
The Data Protection Act is a comprehensive document that, like most EU legislation, protects the privacy of consumers while also building in safeguards for special groups like those mentioned above. The Icelandic privacy watchdog (Data Protection Authority) also holds regular audits of companies’ and the government’s data policies.
All in all, it seems Iceland’s stated intention of becoming the “Switzerland of data” is well underway, also because of the country’s extensive use of green energy and a climate perfect for server farms. As any country that places such a high priority on people’s right to privacy is okay in our books, we hope that legislators worldwide look at Iceland’s recent economic growth and take their cue from there.
The four countries above are without a doubt the current leaders when it comes to privacy protection and if you have your files stored there, you can sleep soundly knowing your data is safe from government interference. This does not mean there are no other countries out there that place priority on keeping your data safe, these four are just the point of the spear.
South Korea and Taiwan, for instance, are working hard on protecting citizens’ data from prying eyes, they’re just a little behind the four above. Hopefully that will change in a few years’ time; keep an eye on Cloudwards.net to stay updated.
Do you have any suggestions for privacy-friendly countries? Let us know in the comments below. Thank you for reading and stay safe out there.