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Brrrr, Facebook Data Center Coming to European Arctic

STOCKHOLM (The Blaze/AP) — With more Facebook users outside the United States than inside, Facebook is making building a new five acre data center to better serve this audience. Where did they pick? Lulea, Sweden. Why? Because it's cold.

With winter temperatures well below freezing and summertime highs that rarely climb above 80F (25 degrees Celcius), Lulea has used its frigid climate as a selling point in its efforts to establish itself as a hub for server farms. Other Nordic cities have adopted similar strategies.

Facebook officials also said the city had close proximity to hydroelectric power, which was a factor in the decision.

Facebook director of site operations Tom Furlong told the Associated Press that European users would get better performance from having a node for data traffic closer to them. Facebook currently stores data for its more than 800 million users worldwide at sites in California, Virginia and Oregon and is building another facility in North Carolina.

Facebook is also getting a frigid welcome from the small Swedish Pirate Party, which is not represented in Parliament. The party has warned Facebook that placing the servers in Lulea would expose European users to eavesdropping from Sweden's National Defence Radio Establishment, also known by its Swedish initials FRA.

The agency can conduct surveillance on telephone conversations and data traffic to and from Sweden under legislation designed to fight cross-border terrorism and crime, which raised strong protests from privacy activists when it was passed in 2008. Google's global privacy council Peter Fleischer called it "the most privacy-invasive legislation in Europe."

Jan Fredriksson, a spokesman for Facebook in Sweden, said the company was confident that restrictions on the agency's surveillance activities would protect the integrity of regular Facebook users.

"This isn't something that will affect users," Frediksson said. "Only people who are strongly suspected of terrorism can become subjected to this."

Facebook is facing its own privacy concerns in Europe over how long it retains users' information and other issues, which The Blaze reported on earlier this week.

"Facebook isn't famous for caring about its users integrity, so they didn't care about it in this case either," Pirate Party leader Anna Troberg said.

FRA spokeswoman Anni Boelenius said the agency only conducts surveillance against specific threats to Sweden, including cyber security, Swedish troops abroad and the military capabilities of foreign powers.

"The surveillance is aimed at these phenomena and not against specific services or means of communication," she said.

The Lulea data center, which will consist of three 300,000-square foot (28,000-square meter) server buildings, is scheduled for completion by 2014. The site will need 120 MW of energy, fully derived from hydropower.

Located 60 miles (100 kilometers), south of the Arctic Cicle, Lulea lies near hydropower stations on a river that generates twice as much electricity as the Hoover Dam on the border of Nevada and Arizona, Facebook said.

In case of a blackout, construction designs call for each building to have 14 backup diesel generators with a total output of 40 MW.

Facebook didn't give the price of its investment, but Lulea officials have previously projected construction costs of up to 5 billion kronor ($760 million). The Swedish government said it was ready to pitch in with 103 million kronor ($16 million).

"We knocked on doors at Facebook's head office (in Palo Alto, California) and today they're moving in to Lulea — this is huge, really huge," said Matz Engman, who heads the Lulea Business Agency, a public-private partnership working to attract businesses to the region.

In 2009 Google purchased a paper mill in Hamina, southern Finland, and turned it into a data center, using seawater from the Baltic Sea for its cooling system.

Servers inside data centers are the backbone of Internet services such as Facebook. The servers store and transmit billions of status updates, links, photos and all the outside apps used by Facebook's members.

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