David Kirkpatrick

January 29, 2010

Cloud computing and privacy

The early results are not too promising.

From the link:

Loosely defined, cloud computing involves programs or services that run on Internet servers. Despite the buzz surrounding it, the idea isn’t new–think Web mail. But huge benefits, such as being able to gain access to your data from anywhere and not having to worry about backups, have led more people to leap to the Internet to do everything from writing documents and watching movies to managing their businesses. Unfortunately, privacy is often still stuck at home.

Behind the Times

Archaic laws that focus on where your information is, rather than what it is, are part of the problem. But a disturbing lack of respect for essential privacy among industry heavyweights who should know better is also evident.

Consider comments that Google CEO Eric Schmidt made during a recent CNBC interview. In response to the question, “People are treating Google (GOOG) like their most trusted friend. Should they be?” Schmidt responded, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

This kind of “only the guilty have anything to hide” mindset is a privacy killer, and rests on the completely flawed no tion that people want privacy only when they’re doing something wrong. There’s nothing wrong with my taking a shower or searching for information about a medical condition. But it’s still private.

It’s possible Schmidt spoke without thinking–Google is mum for now on the prospect of issuing a clarification of any kind. But meanwhile, privacy is taking a pounding in other areas, as well.

Last summer, a U.S. District Court judge in Oregon ruled that government law enforcement agencies need not provide you with a copy of a warrant they have obtained in order to read all of your e-mail stored on an Internet server–where most of us keep e-mail these days. It’s sufficient to give your Internet service provider notice, according to Judge Michael Mosman.

In his opinion and order, Mosman noted the Fourth Amendment’s “strong privacy protection for homes and the items within them in the physical world.” Still, he said, “When a person uses the Internet, however, the user’s actions are no longer in his or her physical home; in fact he or she is not truly acting in private space at all.”

I bolded that last bit of text, and that may be the most important statement regarding cloud computing and privacy — when you are operating in the cloud, United States Fourth Amendment law as it is currently read does not protect your privacy.

Let me restate that — any actions you take in any aspect of cloud computing conceivably are not covered by your Fourth Amendment right to privacy. This fact should give anyone who is considering the cloud for anything beyond trivial usage a great deal of pause.

1 Comment »

  1. […] you’re interesting in cloud computing. I have some serious concerns about cloud computing, particularly with privacy and the current state of legal precedent regarding the public/private status of data in the cloud […]

    Pingback by One major advantage with cloud computing — experimentation « David Kirkpatrick — February 18, 2010 @ 2:22 pm


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: