One of the biggest policy challenges that needs rethinking on national and international levels, is the policy approach to limit the harms from data centers. A key locus of intervention in doing so is data centers.
Data centers–the large windowless buildings full of server racks providing the computational power of the digital society–are increasingly at the heart of political contention in Europe. The building hyperscalers in the Netherlands, Ireland and Spain are aided by opaque governance processes and have met resistance from local communities. These examples are indicative of a larger trend. Across Europe, large Big Tech companies are buying up land, gobbling up natural resources like water, wind, and energy, to build large-scale data centers for selling privacy-invasive services and software. Where local protests against the impending arrival of hyperscalers have been successful they have displaced its construction to other, often more vulnerable territories.
To address concerns around the energy consumption of data centers the EU is developing some guidelines to limit the tech industries’ carbon footprint– i.e. in the energy directive–and some nation-states are considering data center policy. Yet, none of these state interventions addresses the premise of infinite growth and extraction for which these data centers are built. We believe that given the growth of these data centers, a critical intervention is needed now that sets the tone for EU-wide debates on the future of the computing industry, one that centers people and planet over profit and capital.
- Dr. Corinne Cath, post-doc at programmable infrastructures group led by Dr. Seda Gürses at the University of Delft
- Dr. Fieke Jansen, post-doc and co-pi critical infrastructure lab at University of Amsterdam
- Claire Pershan, EU Advocacy Lead for the Mozilla Foundation, Mozilla
- Kim van Sparrentak, MEP GroenLinks Europa, The Greens/EFA
- Michelle Thorne, Director of Strategy and Partnerships at the Green Web Foundation and a co-initiator of the Green Screen Coalition