Privacy Concerns with Cloud Computing

While many benefits of cloud computing exists and some argue that the fragmentation of information may be less risky for consumers to store information, consumers should be made aware of the associated risks to privacy. Many of the privacy concerns associated with cloud computing are similar to Internet policy issues that the government has been tackling for several years. Cloud computing has important implications for the privacy and confidentiality of personal, business, and governmental information. Data security and privacy concerns influence the extent to which companies embrace cloud computing. To move forward, a decision needs to be made on how to balance the benefits of cloud computing with privacy concerns and the evolving technology.  


Key Cloud Computing Privacy Concerns

Cloud computing is very convenient, as it enables users to access their documents anywhere. While consumers may still choose that the countervailing interests of convenience and accessibility prevail, individuals and business should consider the following privacy concerns when making an informed decisions to utilize cloud computing services.  

Accountability

It is not always easy to determine who is responsible for what because the cloud is inherently global and operates across many mediums, accountability issues exists. For example, in case of a security breach or inadvertent disclosure of data, it may be difficult for consumers to determine liability.

Control and Ownership of Data

When individuals and business place applications and data files “into the cloud”, they lose physical control of their information. Basically, individuals and business trust someone else to do an essential service that you don’t necessarily control. For further discussion of this topic, please see Laura Sydell’s article, Computing In The Cloud: Who Owns Your Files?

Inadvertent or Unauthorized Access to/Disclosure of Data

The pooling of resources using a common infrastructure serving many people at one (non-private clouds), has an increased risk of inadvertent or unauthorized access to data by others in the cloud and the inability to pinpoint with any specificity where data resides at a given point in time. Thus, creating ambiguity about jurisdictional issues.

Increased threats of data thefts

Similar to potential drawbacks of other outsourced IT models, there is a heightened risk of insider thefts with cloud computing because of the inverse relationship between loyalty and trust. In addition, IT providers may impose contractual liability and indemnification limits on damages caused by data breaches which may leave the customer without adequate remedies.

Data Integrity

Cloud computing is anything that is not localized to a specific single machine. Thus, with data typically commingled on servers, there may be situations in which one customer’s data is contaminated with another customer’s data or accessed by the wrong individual.

Data Mining & Secondary Use of Data

Third parties seem to have easier access to data stored in the cloud. As a result, there is an increase risk of consumer’s data be used for purposes unrelated to purposes for which the data was initially collected. However,  free cloud computing services have Terms of Services (TOS) that allow them to use a user’s data if it is being shared extensively to the public or to multiple users.