Estonia to move ahead with the “data embassy” concept

The Estonian parliament, Riigikogu, passed an act that would allow Estonia to host its critical databases in Luxembourg.

Based on the ratified agreement, the data relevant for ensuring the continuity of the Estonian state can be hosted at the Luxembourg national data centre. It is hoped that this step will increase the security of the Estonian digital society.

Luxembourg was chosen as a hosting partner because it has state-owned high security data centres that have been certified at Tier 4 level – a centre that is fault-tolerant, allowing for the occurrence of any unplanned activity while still maintaining operations. There are currently no equivalent data centres in Estonia.

Besides being a trusted ally, Luxembourg is also ready to ensure the immunity of the Estonian data and information systems – this effectively means the officials of the host country will be barred from accessing the data.

The world’s first

A “data embassy” is a national cloud solution through which it is possible to host data and services and, if necessary, to operate them from a secure data centre outside the territorial borders of Estonia. This will enable to ensure the functioning of the Estonian state in times of potential crisis, such as a huge-scale cyberattack or an invasion by a hostile country – which in Estonia’s case can only be Russia.

Estonia’s pilot project – believed to be the world’s first data embassy – is an innovative solution in international relations, too. Therefore, the concluding of the agreement between the Republic of Estonia and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg also constitutes a precedent in the international law.

“The ‘physical’ embassies are our sovereign territory under the Vienna Convention. Now we want to bring the same concept to the cyber world and data centres,” Siim Sikkut, the government’s ICT policy adviser, told Estonian World last year.

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Cover: Satellite dishes in Betzdorf, Luxembourg (the image is illustrative/courtesy of galerie.designnation.de). Read also: Estonia to open the world’s first data embassy in Luxembourg.

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About the author: Silver Tambur

Silver Tambur is the cofounder and Editor-in-Chief of Estonian World. He has previously studied journalism at the University of Tartu, and Politics & Society at the Birkbeck College, University of London. Silver has been the editor at the Estonian Public Broadcasting’s news service in English, as well as contributing for the Business Sense magazine in the UK, Deutsche Welle and Radio New Zealand. You can also follow him on Twitter. You can write to Silver at silver@estonianworld.com.