Is there a cloud hanging over the cloud?

The latest revelations about PRISM, the US government intelligence programme that is sifting through our data in an almost unconstrained manner, have cast a shadow over the whole idea of putting all our data ‘in the cloud’.

Those companies and experts who have promoted cloud computing with an almost messianic fervour have got some serious questions to answer. Is putting our data in the cloud effectively giving the US government a licence to come and have a peek whenever it feels like it? It looks that way at the moment.

Anyone one with an understanding of technology recognises that cloud security is something of a ‘work-in-progress’ and this has caused many businesses to hold back from fully embracing cloud services. Amazon, Google and many others offer unparalleled price and performance benefits but these have not outweighed the doubts around data security and control, leading to various permutations of ‘private’, ‘private-public hybrid’ cloud solutions. It seems likely these will be more widely adopted.

Many of us rationalise that our security is not really a big deal and we’d rather have the convenience and cost benefits (these are often ‘free’ services). If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear. I mean, if someone really wants to read your emails to your sister, find out what groceries you buy and see pictures of your kids, they’re welcome, right?

And it helps them catch terrorists. They’re only after the bad guys, aren’t they?

Unless your emails to your sister are about how vulnerable and isolated your parents are, and how bad their home security is. Or you manage all your financial affairs online, as well as your shopping. And those pictures of your kids on the beach – you don’t care who sees them and where they end up on the web?

Unless you oppose the next government because of its extreme or autocratic policies, and they call all opponents  ‘terrorists’.  Like they do in Syria. And Turkey.

Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, is worried. We should be too.

Time to fish out that external hard drive and think again about where my data is kept.

Leave a Reply