In the brave new world of cloud computing, where data is stored off-site in massive server farms instead of on a user's local hard drive, privacy and security are paramount in the consumer's mind.

Unfortunately for privacy advocates, their concerns are essentially moot thanks to the U.S.A. Patriot Act, which a key Microsoft official said recently permits the U.S. to spy on data stored within cloud servers across the European Union.

The revelation of transcontinental spying, which has long been suspected, came from Gordon Frazer, Microsoft U.K.'s managing director, speaking at an announcement event for the company's new suite of office software.

Frazer's admission was caught by ZDNet reporter Zack Whittaker, who's long covered data security issues as they relate to the Patriot Act.

According to Whittaker's report, Frazer was asked whether the company could "guarantee that EU-stored data, held in EU based datacenters, will not leave the European Economic Area under any circumstances".

Because Microsoft is a U.S.-based company, he replied, they would be bound by its laws.

Provisions within the Patriot Act allow U.S. authorities to conduct surveillance without identifying the person or location to be wiretapped; permit surveillance of "non-US" persons who are not affiliated with a terrorist group; and allow law enforcement to gain access to "any tangible thing" during investigations.

Microsoft Office documents would now be officially included in that -- seemingly no matter where they reside.