Business Briefing

I spy Amazon: Britain’s ‘most classified material’ to be stored in AWS cloud

Companies in the news include AWS, Facebook and Gieves & Hawkes

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Amazon: I spy

Amazon seems to do everything else. So why not pay it to look after this country’s intelligence secrets? That seems to be the thinking at GCHQ which – with its sister agencies MI5 and MI6 – has opted to entrust “Britain’s most classified material” to the US tech giant, said Sam Hall in The Daily Telegraph; or, more specifically, to Amazon Web Services (AWS), its cloud computing arm, in a deal reportedly worth between £500m and £1bn over the next ten years. 

The new data storage system will “enable spies to share information from overseas more easily, and enhance the use of speech recognition and other technologies”. The system will also be accessible by other government departments, such as the Ministry of Defence. On the other hand, there will be serious questions “about the privacy and sovereignty implications of such material being hosted by a non-British company”. 

Safeguards are being built in, reported the FT: the spy agencies’ data “will be held in Britain” and Amazon “will not have access to information held on the cloud platform”. Even so, the deal means a vast amount of the UK’s most secret security data will now be hosted by a single US tech company – and that is bound to “ignite concerns”.

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Facebook: what the Papers say 

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen arrived in London this week to give evidence to a parliamentary committee scrutinising the Online Safety Bill, said The Independent. She gave MPs “plenty to think about”. Reinforcing the suspicion that the tech giant puts “profit before people”, she explained that “anger and hate is the easiest way to grow on Facebook”. CEO Mark Zuckerberg claims Haugen’s account is partial. If so, it’s time he gave his side of the story. 

The pressure is certainly mounting, said Eleanor Olcott in the FT. Haugen’s trip coincided with a slew of damning additions to the “Facebook Papers” (leaked internal documents now running to thousands of pages) showing that senior executives repeatedly ignored “internal warnings” that the platform “enabled the spread of misinformation, and promoted violent and dangerous content” all over the world. 

Even Apple threatened to ban Facebook from its App Store over concerns that the platform was being used to trade and sell khadima (Arabic for “maids”), said David Mercer on Sky News. “Under fire on many fronts”, Facebook suffered a slowdown in sales growth in the last quarter and has warned of uncertainty to come in its crucial advertising business, said Jennifer Saba on Reuters Breakingviews. Shares have fallen by about 15% since Haugen’s first revelations in mid-September.

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Gieves & Hawkes: stitched up? 

Arguably “the most famous” tailor on Savile Row, Gieves & Hawkes has serviced clients ranging from George III and Nelson to Churchill and Noël Coward, said The Times. But after 250 years of trading, the business is “in danger of closing permanently” because of financial problems facing its Chinese parent, Trinity Limited – itself controlled by the Shandong Ruyi Technology Group, “which faces a debt crisis”. The hunt is now on for a buyer.

Even before the pandemic, tailors were suffering from a decline in demand for formal clothing. But Gieves & Hawkes, which has 58 shops in 25 cities, has “a strong heritage name” and is said by a source to have been “trading well since re-opening”. That should stand the venerable brand in good stead.

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