Cloud Computing and Privacy

“Cloud computing” which Webopedia defines as a “type of computing that is comparable to grid computing, relies on sharing computing resources rather than having local servers or personal devices to handle applications. The goal of cloud computing is to apply traditional supercomputing power (normally used by military and research facilities) to perform tens of trillions of computations per second.” Cloud computing makes it possible to store data and software platforms and services to be stored offsite in the “cloud”. There are a number of risks to storing sensitve information in the cloud. An article on Politico reports on the growing international concern with U.S.-based cloud computing services due to privacy fears.

Two recent papers on the impact of the USA Patriot on US cloud computing providers act are worth reading.

  • Law Enforcement and Cloud Computing, an article Law firm in discusses two perspectives:“From an EU perspective, concerns have recently been voiced about the access to data by US law enforcement agencies under the USA PATRIOT Act. However, EU law enforcement agencies also have broad powers to access information placed in the cloud.From a cloud user’s perspective, this essentially means that sound information management practice, not the USA Patriot Act or similar laws in other countries, should govern decisions regarding what data is appropriate for what range of storage sites, including use of cloud services.”
  • UK Cloud Computing Interception – nothing new, an article that discusses UK situation. “Some UK cloud-computing customers are concerned that they should not entrust US cloud-providers with their data for fear of US law enforcement interception. If interception is so much of a concern they should not only avoid US cloud providers but also should avoid using the UK’s telephone, the Internet, and the postal system. The interception of communications, whether stored in the 21st Century cloud or sealed in 16th Century scrolls, and whether here in the UK or in the US, is nothing new. All communications data, where justified, may be intercepted by the State’s watchful and proportional eye.”

For more on the Patriot Act, see How Patriotic is the Patriot Act?: Freedom Versus Security in the Age of Terrorism by Amitai Etzioni (Call #KF4850 .E88 2004 ) in the Brooklyn Law School Library collection. This brief guide deals with an important issue — the balance between personal freedom and collective security in the age of terrorism. It presents principled analyses and suggestions for change and is thoroughly documented.