Amazon strikes deal with UK spy agencies to host classified material

Campaigners call it ‘another worrying public-private partnership’

Zoe Tidman
Tuesday 26 October 2021 10:31
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<p>Amazon Web Services has reportedly struck a deal with the UK’s spy agencies</p>

Amazon Web Services has reportedly struck a deal with the UK’s spy agencies

Britain’s spy agencies have struck a deal with Amazon that would see the company’s cloud computing host classified material, it has been reported.

The agreement aims to improve the use of data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) in espionage, according to the Financial Times.

The deal was reportedly spearheaded by GCHQ, the UK’s intelligence, cyber and security agency.

The high-security cloud system is also planned to be used by M15, M16 and government departments taking part in joint operations, according to the Financial Times.

Data will reportedly be held in the UK as part of the deal with Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon.com Inc’s cloud service arm.

Ciaran Martin, the former head of the National Cyber Security Centre, told the newspaper the deal would allow spy agencies “to get information from huge amounts of data in minutes, rather than in weeks and months”.

But privacy campaigners raised concerns over the agreement, with Gus Hosein from Privacy International calling it “another worrying public-private partnership”.

In February, GCHQ said it had fully embraced artificial intelligence to uncover patterns in vast amounts of global data to counter hostile disinformation and snare child abusers.

GCHQ has been using basic forms of AI such as translation technology for years but is now stepping up its use, partly in response to the use of AI by hostile states and partly due to the data explosion that makes it effective.

In a report on AI, the head of GCHQ said the agency believes AI capabilities “will be at the heart of our future ability to protect the UK”.

“They will enable analysts to manage the ever-increasing volume and complexity of data, improving the quality and speed of their decision-making,” Sir Jeremy Fleming wrote.

“Keeping the UK’s citizens safe and prosperous in a digital age will increasingly depend on the success of these systems.”

Amazon and MI5 have been approached for comment.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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