The cloud privacy wars are coming

By David Linthicum
InfoWorld

Germany’s interior minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich — the country’s top security official — cautioned privacy-conscious residents and organizations to steer clear of U.S.-based service companies, according to the Associated Press. As InfoWorld’s Ted Samson has reported, “Friedrich is by no means the first E.U. politician to issue this type of warning, and as details continue to emerge about the U.S. government’s widespread surveillance programs, such warnings are certain to garner greater attention.”

The blowback in Europe around NSA surveillance is no surprise. Privacy has always been a huge issue in Europe, as demonstrated by confrontations with Google, among others.  However, the real privacy wars in the cloud have yet to be fought, both in the United States and in Europe. This battle will likely occur in courtrooms and in government regulatory agencies.

The reality is that people who working with cloud-based platforms won’t stop using those platforms — but they will get much better at security and privacy. With such improvements in security and privacy, law enforcement and government agencies won’t have ready access to some data. That means legal battles will occur in many countries, with the use of remote data hosting services, such as cloud services, in the middle of those frays.

One result of businesses taking steps to ensure that their data won’t be monitored by government agencies will be wider use of both encryption and physical restrictions on access. However, if the government wants to see the data and obtains a court order (sometimes in secret), it will want access to that data. To get that encrypted or restricted-access data in the cloud, the government will need an additional court order to gain access. That’s when lawsuits will be filed and all hell breaks loose.

Some people believe these issues can be avoided by not using public cloud providers. But that’s naive. If the government wants your data and if there is cause to support their concerns to a judge, it will come after that date whether it’s in your closet or a cloud. Welcome to the new world order.

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