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What is Data Sovereignty?

Data sovereignty is the ability of enterprises to safeguard and have full control over the personally identifiable information (PII) of any citizen or permanent resident of the country in which it operates. As a pillar of digital sovereignty, it emphasizes that data generated in a specific jurisdiction should be subjected to its laws. It is about maintaining control over data within the borders where it is generated, given the significance of data in shaping economies and decisions.

What are the Challenges of Data Sovereignty?

Data localization requires data (including secrets and credentials) to be stored locally and can hinder global data flow, affecting international businesses and collaborations that depend on efficient data exchange.

Fostering international collaboration is crucial for global progress, innovation and addressing shared challenges. As nations strengthen their grip on data security, they become susceptible to cyberattacks aiming to capitalize on specific weaknesses, underscoring the need for strong cybersecurity safeguards.
Cloud computing allows organizations to store and process data on remote servers maintained by third-party providers. However, data sovereignty concerns arise due to the potential for data to be stored in different geographic locations, subject to the laws and regulations of those jurisdictions.

What is the Importance of Data Sovereignty?

Government’s view maintaining data sovereignty as a matter of utmost national security concern. This has led to regulations like GDPR that place firm cybersecurity compliance requirements on private sector organizations operating in these countries. Specific categories of information, such as government documents and sensitive infrastructure data, require stringent oversight to prevent unauthorized access from foreign entities or malicious actors.

Data sovereignty plays a pivotal role in enhancing national security by allowing countries to control the storage and processing of sensitive information within their borders. This is particularly crucial for safeguarding government documents and critical infrastructure data. Concurrently, in the context of today’s knowledge-based economies, governments recognize the substantial value of data as a driver for local innovation and economic development. Retaining control over citizens’ data becomes a strategic move to ensure that the economic benefits derived from this valuable resource contribute to local growth. For organizations, navigating data protection laws and complying with regulations is imperative, as it not only safeguards sensitive information but aligns with broader goals of supporting innovation and economic progress. Non-compliance, in contrast, carries significant legal penalties and reputational risks, underscoring the importance of understanding and adhering to data sovereignty principles in a global and data-centric landscape.

For organizations, this entails the need to remain vigilant regarding the diverse data protection laws and regulations in various countries. Non-compliance can result in significant costs. For instance, under GDPR, penalties can amount to as much as €20 millions or 4 percent of the offending party’s annual global turnover, whichever is greater.

Best Practices for Data Sovereignty

Fundamental to data sovereignty is the concept of control, where governments are concerned about the protection of sensitive personal and business data, as well as maintaining control over data that may have national security implications.

Introduce best practices such as the following:

  • Adopt SaaS cybersecurity solutions delivered from data centers in your country or region.
  • Implement least privilege access to prevent unauthorized and excessive access to data.
  • Implement defense-in-depth access control measures like multi-factor authentication (MFA), privileged access management (PAM) and session isolation to protect sovereign data from internal and external bad actors.
  • Incorporate ITDR to detect and respond to anomalous or risky access to sovereign data from non-sovereign regions.
  • Design security architectures to maintain high availability.

A secure digital infrastructure is equally essential, necessitating the establishment of robust cybersecurity frameworks and a comprehensive national cybersecurity strategy to safeguard critical assets against cyber threats.

Learn More about Data Sovereignty

  1. Data Sovereignty: Balancing Residency Requirements and Access Rights
  2. Getting Ready for NIS2 – Why Identity Security is Key to Preparing for Compliance Updates
  3. Identity Security’s Crucial Role in Safeguarding Data Privacy