The big tech companies are the surprising weapon of the West in the competition with Russia and China

In February, Ukraine passed a law allowing private cloud providers to store government data outside its borders, then signed contracts with the cloud services of Amazon (AWS), Microsoft, oracle and alphabetic.

A few days later, Russia invaded it, and a Russian missile destroyed a data center in Kiev where information was stored, said Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Information. “All the backups have already been transferred to other countries in Europe and no damage was done,” he said at the time.

Large technology companies are facing increasing criticism at home about their influence in the market and in the public square. But at the same time, their role in Ukraine shows how they are becoming a key asset in the West’s rivalry with Russia and China.

The Peace Prize in Security Against Russian Cyber ​​Attacks

In Ukraine, the attitude towards Big Tech is not as ambivalent as it is in the Western countries that support it in the war. It awarded Google the Peace Prize for helping to secure the country’s computer systems against Russian cyberattacks and because Google cut some of its business ties with Russia. Then she gave AWS and Microsoft similar awards.

In an interview in Davos, Switzerland, last May, Fedorov said that technology comes in two ideological paradigms. In the first, Derech said through a translator, “The data belongs to the citizens themselves. In the second paradigm, the data belongs to the state. The second paradigm can be seen in Russia and China.” Ukraine believes in the first paradigm and this is reflected in the companies it has chosen to work with.

Technology is often thought of as political: computer processors work the same way in the democratic US and in authoritarian China. But the way technology companies, especially in services like social networking and cloud computing, operate in countries around the world other than their home country often reflects the values ​​and laws of The country where their mother was established.

For example, social networking companies like YouTube of google, Meta Facebook’s parent company andTwitter are routinely asked to take down or keep up certain content but are rarely ordered to do so by the US government. When foreign governments require companies to do so, they often refuse.

Last year, the Indian government demanded that Twitter take down posts protesting its agricultural policies. Twitter fought this provision; The government responded by encouraging users to switch to Koo, an Indian microblogging platform that competes with Twitter. The Koo co-founder said the company believes in cooperating with requests from governments and regulators to remove content.

Google received a fine from Russia for not removing content, for example its attitude to content related to the war in Ukraine. In contrast, Yandex, a Russian competitor, does not include content from unapproved sources in its news aggregator.

When Google does download content, it finds out about the requests forwarded to it in routine reports. Such transparency is rare outside the United States, said Sharia Tewari of the Lumen Project, a Harvard University nonprofit that promotes transparency regarding the removal of content from the Internet. She attributes importance to the fact that the Internet was developed “in the United States, within the environment of the First Amendment and the commitment to freedom of expression.”

The snowball

The US is not flawless when it comes to data protection. Revelations by Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the National Security Agency, that the US sometimes hacks private information about foreign people through US companies, was one of the reasons why China developed its own cloud computing industry. . But the Chinese companies have not been successful outside of China: the trading giant Alibaba, for example, controls 34% of the cloud computing market in China but only 4% of the market in the rest of the world, according to Synergy Research, which follows the industry.

John Dinsdale, director of research at Synergy, wrote in an email that China lacks the level of “privacy and personal security [או התאגידי] This is what we expect in most of the rest of the world. It is also quite clear that the Chinese government will intervene in specific markets or companies when it feels the need to do so.” This, he said, does not comfort customers of cloud computing, for whom “privacy and data protection are quite basic issues.”

In the days after the Russian invasion, AWS employees used several suitcase-sized storage devices known as “snowballs” to quickly download and back up Ukrainian government data, from land records to tax returns, safely out of the country and uploaded to the cloud. Liam Maxwell, who was involved in that effort, said he did not know where the data was now. “It is found where [שאוקראינה] want it to be. The people who need to know, know.”

AWS further protects consumer data from outsiders, including Amazon employees, through encryption and chips that keep the activity of AWS employees and customer access to information physically separate, Maxwell said. One of AWS’s biggest competitive advantages isn’t about technology: It’s about the rule of American law and the clear legal framework for managing data stored by American providers, Maxwell said. These are “very big advantages for any American company operating in this space.”

The dilemma between the restraint of force and the use of force

All this pulls US policy makers in opposite directions: on the one hand to curb exploitation seemingly of their power of the giant companies on issues of competitiveness and content management within the US, but on the other hand to recognize their role in curbing Russian and Chinese influence in the world. A group of former Trump administration officials recently warned leaders in Congress not to consider proposals that would force such companies to open their app stores and platforms to foreigners. Ours – especially China – will welcome any action by the federal government that weakens the strength of the American technology industry,” they wrote.

If the U.S. moves closer to partner countries in its values ​​about “how data is collected, analyzed, and used, we would like American companies to be in third markets and help implement that process,” wrote Adam Segal, co-author of the Council on Foreign Relations report on policy Except in the cyber age.

These priorities are reflected in trade policy. The Trump administration negotiated the free flow of data across borders in trade agreements with Mexico, Canada and Japan, and the Biden administration seeks to do the same in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework with 13 other Asian countries.

Cost, features and reliability will be the deciding factors in which technologies will win the global race for impact. But values ​​also play a role. in the company wow The Chinese provided a lot of communication equipment to Ukraine. But Fedorov says Ukraine is in talks with Sweden’s Ericsson and Finland’s Nokia about building a 5G network. Sweden and Finland support Ukraine in the war while China supports Russia. “We cooperate with companies and countries that have the same values,” he said.

By Editor