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Navigating the changing data localization landscape with Cloudflare’s Data Localization Suite


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Navigating the changing data localization landscape with Cloudflare’s Data Localization Suite

At Cloudflare, we believe that deploying effective cybersecurity measures is the best way to protect the privacy of personal information and can be more effective than making sure that information stays within a particular jurisdiction. Yet, we hear from customers in Europe, India, Australia, Japan, and many other regions that, as part of their privacy programs, they need solutions to localize data in order to meet their regulatory obligations.

So as we think about Data Privacy Day, which is coming up on January 28, we are in the interesting position of disagreeing with those who believe that data localization is a proxy for better data privacy, but of also wanting to support our customers who have to comply with certain regulations.

For this reason, we introduced our Data Localization Suite (DLS) in 2020 to help customers navigate a data protection landscape that focuses more and more on data localization. With the DLS, customers can use Cloudflare’s powerful global network and security measures to protect their businesses, while keeping the data we process on their behalf local. Since its launch, we’ve had many customers adopt the Data Localization Suite. In this blog post we want to share updates about how we’re making the DLS more comprehensive and easier to use.

The confusing state of data protection regulations

We frequently field questions from customers who hear about new local laws or interpretations of existing regulations that seem to limit what they can do with data. This is especially confusing for customers doing business on the global Internet because they have to navigate regulations that suggest customers based in one country can’t use products from companies based in another country, unless extensive measures are put in place.

We don’t think this is any way to regulate the Internet. As we’ll talk more about in our blog post tomorrow about cross-border data transfers, we’re encouraged to see new developments aimed at establishing a common set of data protections across jurisdictions to make these data transfers more seamless.

In the meantime, we have the Data Localization suite to help our customers navigate these challenges.

A recap of how the Data Localization Suite works

We developed DLS to address three primary customer concerns:

  1. How do I ensure my encryption keys stay in my jurisdiction?
  2. How can I ensure that application services like caching and WAF only run in my jurisdiction?
  3. How can I ensure that logs and metadata are never transferred outside my jurisdiction?

To address these concerns, our DLS has an encryption key component, a component that addresses where content in transit is terminated and inspected, and a component that keeps metadata within a customers’ jurisdiction:

1. Encryption Keys
Cloudflare has long offered Keyless SSL and Geo Key Manager, which ensure that private SSL/TLS key material never leaves the EU. Customers using our Geo Key Manager can choose for encryption keys to be stored only in data centers in the region the customer specifies. Keyless SSL ensures that Cloudflare never has possession of the private key material at all; Geo Key Manager ensures that keys are protected with cryptographic access control, so they can only be used in specified regions.

2. Regional Services:
Regional Services ensures that Cloudflare will only be able to decrypt and inspect the content of HTTPS traffic inside a customer’s chosen region. When Regional Services is enabled, regardless of which data center traffic first hits on our global network, rather than decrypting it at the first data center, we forward the TCP stream in encrypted form. Once it reaches a data center inside the customer’s chosen region, we decrypt and apply our Layer 7 security measures to prevent malicious traffic from reaching our customers’ websites.

3. Customer Metadata Boundary:
With this option enabled, no end user traffic logs (which contain IP addresses) that Cloudflare processes on behalf of our customers will leave the region chosen by the customer. (Currently available only in the EU and US.)

Expanding Data Localization Suite to new regions

Although we launched the Data Localization Suite with Europe and America in mind at first, we quickly realized a lot of our customers were interested in versions specific to the Asia-Pacific region as well. In September of last year, we added support for Regional Services in Japan, Australia, and India.

Then in December 2022 we announced that Geo Key Manager is now accessible in 15 regions. Customers can both allow- and deny-list the regions that they want us to support for fine-grained control over where their key material is stored.

See also our technical deep dive about how we built Geo Key Manager v2.

Making data localization more accessible

Regional Services and the Customer Metadata Boundary offer important protections for our customers — but they’ve been too hard to use. Both have required manual steps taken by teams at Cloudflare, and have had confusing (or no) public APIs.

Today, we’re fixing that! We’re excited to announce two big improvements to usability:

  1. Regional Services customers now have a dedicated UI and API  for enabling Regional Services, accessible straight from the DNS tab. Different regions can now be set on a per-hostname basis
  2. Customers who want to use the Metadata Boundary can use our self-service API to enable it.

We’re excited about making it easier to use the Data Localization Suite and give customers more control over exactly how to localize which parts of their traffic.

What’s next

The Data Localization Suite is accessible today for enterprise customers. Please chat with your account representative if you’re interested in using it, and you can find more information here about configuring it in our developer docs.

We have lots more planned for the Data Localization Suite this year. We plan to support many more regions for Regional Services and the Metadata Boundary. We also plan to have full data localization support for all of our Zero Trust products. Stay tuned to the blog for more!

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Jon Levine|@jplevine

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