MPs Demand Answers Over UK Spy Agencies' Data Deal With Amazon

“The government must - urgently - update parliament on the nature of the contract and what security protections are in place."
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MPs have raised security concerns over a deal Amazon has struck with the UK’s three spy agencies to host secret material.

Last night it emerged the tech giant’s “cloud” computing arm will be used by GCHQ, MI5, MI6 and other government departments to host classified material.

Sources told the Financial Times that Amazon Web Services’ data would be held in Britain and the American company would not have access to information on the cloud platform.

Experts estimated the deal signed this year would be worth £500 million to £1 billion over the next decade.

However, Conor McGinn, Labour’s shadow security minister, called on the government to tell MPs what “security protections” are in place.

“For a deal with this scale of impact on national security and huge cost to the taxpayer, it’s vital that there is appropriate scrutiny,” he said.

“The government must - urgently - update parliament on the nature of the contract and what security protections are in place.

“We simply cannot trust the private assurance of Conservative ministers who have overseen disastrously wasteful technology projects, like the over budget and delayed emergency services network project.”

Chi Onwurah, shadow minister for science, added: “The government choice of Amazon to host highly classified material with GCHQ raises serious questions. For some time now I’ve been trying to get clarity over the government’s cloud services infrastructure provision, and the role of Amazon Web Services, but without much success as the government regularly hides behind commercial confidentiality.”

She pointed out that we did not know what other nations’ security data Amazon could be hosting.

Onwurah added that the “opaque nature” of these contracts had “obvious implications for our national security”.

Ciaran Martin, who stepped down last year as head of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, said the deal would allow the security services “to get information from huge amounts of data in minutes, rather than in weeks and months”.

He added: “This is not about collecting or hoarding more data,” he said. “The obvious business case is to use existing large amounts of data more effectively.”