Over 12 billion euros invested over 10 years, that is over 1.2 billion euros per yearto support Project Clover, the TikTok’s response to EU concerns on the management of data of European users of the platform.
Il considerable economic commitmentdefinitely among the largest and most important in this market, serves to set up and operate what TikTok describes as “an industry-leading security program that aims to provide European users with cutting-edge protection for their data”. And it was announced the week the company formally took possession of part of the data center under construction in Norway, the largest facility of its kind in Europe.
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A giant in the snow
Unique among the Italian publications, Italian Tech was able to enter the structure and visit it: it is located about 15 minutes by car from Hamar, a town of 30 thousand inhabitants north of Oslo, and is currently made up of 3 huge buildings that will host the TikTok servers where the data of European users will be stored. Each building (over the next few months there will become 5), colored green and black, 130 meters long and 24 meters wide, it consists of 3 floorseach of 4 thousand square meters, each divided into 6 enormous rooms inside which the servers will physically be located: “The transfer of European user data it should start in mid-2024 and be completed by the end of the year,” the company explained to us.
That of Hamar is not the only data center that TikTok has in Europe: There are two others, both in Ireland, which are currently at different levels of operation. For everyone, however, the date on which the social network has made a commitment is the end of 2024, which is precisely the date by which all the data of European users will be on European territory. In this moment of transition, as explained, are “temporarily on servers located in the United States”concentrated in a dedicated area so that (we imagine) the transfer is easier.
At the moment, TikTok has 150 million monthly active users in Europe and it is not clear how they will ultimately be divided between the 3 data centers nor how much space there is in the servers: to a direct question on this, Theo Bertram, vice president of TikTok in charge of relations with governments, replied smiling that “we have space for all these users and for all those we will have in Europe in the years to come.”
The choice of locations it is not a coincidence: both Ireland and (above all) Norway have the ideal climatic conditions to make the project more sustainable, simply because “this climate helps to keep the servers at the right operating temperature with less energy expenditure”, as they reminded us while walking between one pavilion and another of the Hamar data center. With 15 degrees below zero outside.
The first 3 buildings of the data center seen from above One of the enormous rooms of the data center in which the TikTok servers will be located
TikTok and NCC to protect European data
As mentioned, TikTok is taking over the first building in these days (i.e. it is installing the servers, the computers in the offices, checking the cabling and so on), while the second will be ready in March 2024, the third by July and the other two approximately 4 months apart from each other .
Their construction created approximately 700 jobs and their operation will allow the creation of approximately 70 of them for the daily operation and maintenance of each building, i.e. a total of 350 buildings for the entire data centerwhich “will become the default storage space for storing data for all current and future European TikTok users.”
The company also clarified that the 12 billion allow it to be covered various expense items: activities in the data center in Norway and the other two data centers in Ireland; the collaboration with the British NCC, an independent cybersecurity company which will take care of the protection of the data of European users, of verifying the management procedures of the same, of carrying out periodic checks on the site and on the TikTok app to always verify that people’s information is safe and do not end up in the wrong hands; the implementation of unspecified “privacy-enhancing technologies”, again to “further strengthen the protection of user data”.
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With an eye on sustainability
That’s not all, because something we appreciated during our visit to Hamar is also the sustainable approach with which this data center was designed and built, in compliance with TikTok’s goal of being carbon neutral by 2030.
Once completed, the Norwegian structure it will run on 100% renewable energywill be the most energy efficient TikTok data center and will also produce energy, in the form of low-temperature waste heat (i.e. 25 degrees) that can be used by other companies in the area to in turn reduce their impact on the environment.
They have TikTok remembered that “over 5 thousand people work for us throughout Europe”, that “the region is of crucial importance to our platform” and that “we will continue to invest in technology, collaborations and human resources to protect the security of our community and its data”. Now all that remains is to see if all this, from the concrete and tangible sign of the gigantic data center in Norway to the comforting numbers of human moderators active in the various EU countries (the data comes from first public report imposed by the DSA), will be enough to allay the EU’s doubts and fears. The feeling we had, returning home after the visit to Hamar, is that the social network most loved by young and very young people should be imitated not only for its functionality that it offers but also for the approach to solving the thorniest problems.