Since the announcement of Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) back in 2006 I’ve been pretty excited about the potential of cloud platforms. I hadn’t thought about it at all back then, but one easily overlooked issue that has been a chief concern of many Businesses and Governments considering moving to the cloud is the issue of “Data Sovereignty”. While this issue is far more complex for a casual blogger such as myself to cover comprehensively, it is nevertheless an issue of great concern among all levels of corporate decision makers and one that I am beginning to believe would and should become the concern of the IT Professional and even the commonplace internet user.
Inside of what seems to be the current general rebranding of the “Web” to the “Cloud” and the excitement in the industry about the new perspective of the Cloud as a full-fledged development platform, the issues that are being raised in the corporate realm regarding cloud usage and data concerns are bleeding over into the average use of the internet, well, at least for me it is.
The issues became entangled as I observed vendors shifting the perspective of what we would have simply called web based email to a message more akin to “We offering you email and communication services delivered to you via the SaaS (Software as a Service) model in the cloud”. At first I was annoyed that we were once again in a branding-slap-happy craze where vendors were calling everything Cloud services and while I still believe that we’re still in that mode, I can more clearly see why the change in perspective is important and saw the relationship between the concerns of the corporate cloud users and the average internet user.
I have been affectionately dubbed the “Cloud Master” on my team at the office and as I look into issues related to the use of the Cloud there are two common issues that are almost always raised:
- Data Protection Bill (Trinidad and Tobago) 2009
- USA Patriot Act (Don’t worry, even I haven’t read through these acts/bills)
While this is of primary concern as a I now work as a consultant for the Government of T&T I can’t help but think about how much of my data on Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Live Mail, Gmail, Google Docs, Microsoft BPOS etc. is stored “in the cloud” and how much data from the average Joe is being looked at under acts such as the US Patriot Act. How many of us think about who is accessing / has access to our data stored by the online services that we make use of most? I’m not just talking about Hackers or credit card and identity thieves, I’m talking about various ‘legitimate’ agencies of the United States Government.
Alexa’s list of the most visited site for Trinidad and Tobago show that Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Windows Live and Yahoo all within the first 20 top sites that are visited from Trinidad and Tobago. Maybe we need to start thinking about moving some of that data home. I have a sense that as more and more corporate companies discuss this issue as the Cloud matures, more and more commonplace internet users will become aware of data storage issues. As a software developer, I think this is actually a big opportunity to deliver home grown services/software like Email, “Cloud”/Web Storage very much like Windows Live SkyDrive and even local/regional social networking services like Facebook. Of course we still need to develop our infrastructure such as local/regional Internet Exchange Points so that all our web traffic doesn’t first make hops through infrastructure outside of our borders.
So, in an attempt to not make this post too long, here are some links to an interesting series that I read on ZDNet relating to this issue.
This executive summary recaps a series of posts and a year’s worth of research on how the USA PATRIOT ACT impacts cross-border clouds, and considers whether data is safe from the risk of interception or unwarranted searches by U.S. authorities; even European protected data.
In summary, I’m basically saying that based on what I’m seeing in the corporate world as it relates to the use of the Cloud for business purposes along with the general rebranding or shifting perception of the “web” to “the cloud”, I feel like more and more people will become concerned about where their internet information will be stored and this presents with a unique opportunity to develop local, home grown ICT assets.