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IDG Connect – Dan Swinhoe (Global) - Data, Cloud, Government: The Dangers Of Data Sovereignty
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Dan Swinhoe (Global) - Data, Cloud, Government: The Dangers Of Data Sovereignty
Posted b y Dan Swinhoe Company IDG Connect 04/12/2013
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When Ob ama signed an extension to the Patriot Act, something interesting happened. People b ecame worried the US would b e ab le to access their data, no matter which country they resided in, b ecause it was kept on the Cloud. When questioned, Microsoft couldn't promise that people's data was secure on their Office 365 Cloud service, b ecause though you may b e working from the EU, Microsoft is a US company and has to comply with the rules, and doesn't necessarily have to tell you ab out it. These rules apply to Gmail, Amazon and a host of others, despite various EU laws preventing this kind of thing, b ecause they are all US companies. When all this information came to the fore, it put the spotlight on two things; the generally scary, Big Brother approach the US seem to b e taking, and the issue of Data Sovereignty. Concept The legal term is ‘trans-b order data flow'. Each country has their own data laws, all varying in strength and in regard to issues such as privacy and security, which is fine when you know where that data is b eing stored and are familiar with those rules. But what happens when your data is on the Cloud, on a server you can't find, sub ject to laws you don't know ab out? You might still b e ab le to access your data, b ut can local governments? Or even departments from further afield? Though the Act is the main culprit of data sovereignty hysteria, it's just the tip of the cloudy iceb erg.
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Pirate Bay's journeyman approach to data hosting has highlighted how sketchy laws can b e when it comes to data. Though recently the company is having domain troub les having switched from Swedish to Greenland-b ased domains, the Privateers moved to the Cloud in order to escape b eing shut down. Even b efore the Cloud, the company had b een linked to countries that exist outside regular jurisdiction, such as sea fort-turned-Micronation, Sealand and North Korea. Recently, UK PM David Cameron had to sign a cyb ersecurity pact with the Indian government after deciding to host government data in the country , in order to reassure those concerned that this wasn't a fool-hardy idea. As Ian Lamont, IT security specialist at BMW told GigaOM; a stock photograph from a b rochure might b e ok to store anywhere, b ut "customer data or the company's crown jewels? No way." Adding to the prob lem is a lack of information and involvement on where the data is stored. "It doesn't help for a b ank to hear its customer data will b e in this European cloud ‘region'. Not specific enough." So while I personally invite the US to look at my Faceb ook pics and inane Tweets, I'm not so hot on the idea of them getting a hold of my b ank details, or messages to my mum. Likewise, with governments increasingly turning to the Cloud, the stakes b ecome even higher - another country b eing ab le to access your whole identity is kind of scary, no? People may argue that as long as you stay on the legal side of things everything is hunky dory, b ut that's an
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opinion, not a guarantee. It's also worth noting that the Patriot Act, while b eing the media grab b er, isn't the only law of this kind and lots of countries can get their mitts on Cloud data, b ut that doesn't make it any more ok, does it? Ignorance is bliss Despite the PR hype the Cloud has had, there's still a degree of misunderstanding around it. A worryingly large segment of people think Cloud computing has something to do with the weather. Knowledge around Data Sovereignty is even patchier, and while white papers do exist, b ut lack of awareness is still a danger. Currently, if you want to try and protect your data and emb race all those Cloud b enefits, there are few options really. Keep data in-house, and b e very cautious ab out where your data goes and make sure you know all the details when it is b eing stored elsewhere. For Cloud service providers, b eing open ab out where the data is b eing held, and what assurances they can provide on its protection should come as standard. While new rules governing certain areas, for example more pan-EU legislation on the issue, isn't out of the question, that only fixes the prob lem to a certain extent. Cloud computing is a glob al concept, one which needs a glob ally unified set of rules from which everyone can play along to. As long as the rules vary b y state, region, island, etc., the paranoia over who owns what, who's snooping where, and which country Pirate Bay will b e b ased in next, will never end. By Dan Swinhoe, Editorial Assistant, IDG Connect How do you feel about putting your data on the Cloud? Are you worried about governments accessing your data without your knowledge or permission? Take our survey now.
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