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Google challenges Swiss data cloud contract decision

Tangled in the cloud: a Federal court will now review the contract decision. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Google has appealed a recent Swiss decision to award a cloud-computing contract to five other digital firms. The tender process has also come under criticism by defenders of data sovereignty.

Google’s appeal targets the government’s decision last month to name US companies Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle, and Chinese firm Alibaba, as winning candidates to create a cloud-storage system for federal departments.

On Wednesday, Google said that after close evaluation of this decision, it was convinced that its cloud services were up to the requirements and that it was the best-equipped to get the job.

The contract, worth up to CHF110 million ($120 million), was awarded to these groups largely due to the “attractive” prices proposed, federal authorities said at the time.

Confirming that Google’s appeal had been filed within the required delay, the Federal Chancellery said on Wednesday that the decision would now be examined by the Federal Administrative Court.

It’s not the first bit of noise around the contract. Swiss companies for example came away from the process empty-handed, largely because the requirements included the need to have data storage centres on at least three separate continents.

The offer was “explicitly aimed at global providers”, said Swisscom, who didn’t enter the race.

Marc Oehler, who runs an IT firm producing cloud software, told the Le Temps newspaper that Swiss firms didn’t stand a chance, and that in choosing the international options, Switzerland was giving up its data sovereignty.

As the Neue Zürcher Zeitung wrote on Wednesday, this issue was mostly controversial when it came to the inclusion of Alibaba in the list of successful providers – “a firm from authoritarian-governed China”.

The Federal Chancellery said in June it wasn’t yet clear how exactly authorities would use the cloud services and which data would be uploaded. The various providers are obliged to guarantee data security and secrecy rules, the Chancellery said.

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