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Cloud Computing May Draw Government Action 119

Posted by Soulskill
from the internet-is-a-series-of-jet-streams dept.
snydeq brings us this excerpt from InfoWorld: "Cloud computing will soon become an area of hot debate in Washington, as the increasing popularity of cloud-based services is putting pressure on policy makers to answer tough questions on the privacy and security of data in the cloud. For example: Who owns the data that consumers store on the network? Should law enforcement agencies have easier access to personal information in the cloud than data on a personal computer? Do government procurement regulations need to change to allow agencies to embrace cloud computing? So far, US courts have generally ruled that private data stored in the cloud doesn't enjoy the same level of protection from law enforcement searches that data stored on a personal computer does, said Ari Schwartz, COO of the Center for Democracy and Technology. 'I do think government has an almost infinite ability to screw up things when they can't see the future,' former Bill Clinton tech policy adviser Mike Nelson added. 'We have to have leadership that believes in empowering users and empowering citizens.'"
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Cloud Computing May Draw Government Action

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  • by Maestro485 (1166937) on Friday September 12, 2008 @07:35PM (#24985499)
    It's interesting that if I have a locker in a public place with a lock on it, I have a legal right to privacy. Yet, if I have an online storage account with a password ("lock"), it's fair game.

    Lawyers, please enlighten me!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by runlevelfour (1329235)
      Generally speaking the government doesn't want you having any privacy whatsoever so their automatic assumption is that you don't have rights unless the courts force them to acknowledge them. I don't think that the EFF and the ACLU are going to sit idle on this but lately the government (Dem controlled mind all you Obama-will-fix-everything believers) has been passing very repressive legislature. I fully expect there to be a lot more legislature in the pipes on this in the near future. None of it in our (
      • by FlyByPC (841016) on Friday September 12, 2008 @07:50PM (#24985637) Homepage
        So why use the cloud? Keep all your important data on devices that you physically control, and encrypt anything you consider sensitive.

        That said, I do like the lock-on-public-storage-space analogy the GP invokes, especially since our government seems to increasingly have a hard time remembering what the Constitution is.

        Other than convenience, are there real reasons to use/trust cloud computing -- that is, to trust offsite storage with critical information?
        • Other than convenience, are there real reasons to use/trust cloud computing -- that is, to trust offsite storage with critical information?

          Everything that isn't a basic need (food, sleep, shelter) is a convenience, basically.

          • by Fulcrum of Evil (560260) on Friday September 12, 2008 @08:43PM (#24985975)
            sure, if you're okay with living like we did 10,000 years ago.
            • by CastrTroy (595695)
              Or living like people still live like on the other side of the world.
              • Good point.

                I would have thought that someone old enough to have a 6 digit ID (Fulcrum of Evil) would be old enough to understand that only 1/3rd (if that!) of the world actually has the benefits of fulfilling their basic needs... Even the homeless in north america have it pretty good, compared to africa, china or many parts of russia.
                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  Yeah, well I am mostly concerned with my own corner of the world. More specifically, I just want to short the stupid need/want argument, since it's been redundant longer than I've been alive. Really, read Maslow's hierarchy and tell me if there's anything to add to it. Also note that the people in Africa are so very poor largely because the people in power are crooks and thugs who derive advantage from their misery. Nothing I can really do, and totally irrelevant to the argument.
            • by fugue (4373)
              Maslow adds a couple more: we also need personal safety, friendship/love, and the ability to pursue one's potential (in that order?). Given those things, sure, why not live the way we did 10000 years ago? We don't need iPods, exactly... the technological details of how we get our self-fulfillment are irrelevant. Of course, standards for safety have changed (health care (everywhere but the USA, at least), something like habeas corpus (ditto), etc...), but fundamentally technology is there to enable richer
            • by Sentry21 (8183)

              You mean on dialup? No thanks.

        • by mysidia (191772)

          Other than convenience, are there real reasons to use/trust cloud computing -- that is, to trust offsite storage with critical information?

          How about the need for offsite backups?

          Granted, it's best if that information is encrypted.

          Is there something that stops you from encrypting information before putting it on the cloud?

          • by statusbar (314703)

            You asked:

            Is there something that stops you from encrypting information before putting it on the cloud?

            Well, yes... The usual point of the cloud is not just storage... it is computations. I use amazon S3 for encrypted and unencrypted storage, but the Elastic Compute Cloud virtual machines need to be able to decrypt it when necessary. So if the cloud is doing work on the data it needs it to be decrypted.

            --jeffk++

            • by mysidia (191772)

              In that case, you need a separate controller system for your cloud resources to provide the required key materials when necessary.

              But key material for a required encrypted object will never be committed to persistent storage.

              Use public key crypto so your cloud computing processes can WRITE freely, but not read freely.

              The only way any data will be compromised is if the cloud computing provider makes efforts to devise specialized methods to snoop on RAM and CPU instructions to checkpoint your hardened

              • by statusbar (314703)

                Ah, but the problem is that I need a compute cloud which reads lots of data, decrypts it, transforms it mathematically in parallel, and then re-encrypts it. Even with public key encryption, we still need the nodes in the compute cloud to be able to decrypt the data. So same problem, the key can be exposed and therefore the data is too.

                --jeffk++

                • by mysidia (191772)

                  True, but you never have to store the entire key on disk, which is the most likely target for eavesdropping.

                  You do have to store parts of the key in RAM at some point, and it is possible for a third party to attempt to reverse-engineer your software and discover the decryption key if you keep it on RAM in the cloud.

                  But you can make this hard enough that your "eavesdropper" would have to be heavily motivated to do so.

                  You can apply various ad-hoc obfuscation schemes for in-memory data also, to reduce t

        • by HeronBlademaster (1079477) <heron@xnapid.com> on Friday September 12, 2008 @08:54PM (#24986049) Homepage

          One of the biggest reasons my employer let me switch their file downloads from their dedicated server to Amazon S3 is reliability (the other being cost). With our own dedicated server we have to take care of hard drive failures, manage service uptime, and so on. Amazon takes care of all that stuff for us.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          So why use the mail? Keep all your important data on devices that you physically control, and encrypt anything you consider sensitive.

          So why use a security deposit box? Keep all your important data on devices that you physically control, and encrypt anything you consider sensitive.

          So why use an internal hard drive? Keep all your important data on devices that you physically control, and encrypt anything you consider sensitive.

          Or, I don't know, we could all be actually upset with the way things are going and

        • Why does there need to be a reason other than convenience? I could run my own mail server, which would involve purchasing extra equipment, learning how to administer a mail server, paying more money to my ISP to let me run a server, and spending a non-trivial amount of time administering the whole thing. Or I could just let gmail do all the work for me, for free.

          Put it this way: other than convenience, are there real reasons to trust landlords, construction workers, and architects rather than designing, bui

        • That said, I do like the lock-on-public-storage-space analogy the GP invokes...

          WHAT?!?! But it's not a CAR ANALOGY!!1one!

      • by dunnius (1298159) on Friday September 12, 2008 @07:51PM (#24985641)

        Generally speaking the government doesn't want you having any privacy whatsoever so their automatic assumption is that you don't have rights unless the courts force them to acknowledge them. I don't think that the EFF and the ACLU are going to sit idle on this but lately the government (Dem controlled mind all you Obama-will-fix-everything believers) has been passing very repressive legislature. I fully expect there to be a lot more legislature in the pipes on this in the near future. None of it in our (working class) favor, of course.

        Unfortunately, the Government wants to do away with the constitution. This is why it is important to support the EFF, ACLU, and others in order to protect the constitution.

        • Too bad the ACLU refuses to support the 2nd amendment as it pertains to the individual. I refuse to support a organization that selectively supports the constitution.

          Sorry, it it's all or nothing.

          • by retchdog (1319261)

            I always hear this. Does any accomplished active* non-government organization actually support more of the civil liberties amendments/main text, than the ACLU? And why not donate X% of your "activism fund" to ACLU and the rest to NRA? It's not like ACLU actively goes against gun rights, at least recently, even if they ever did. The NRA only supports one amendment for crying out loud; and it's not like the ACLU makes a secret of not supporting the Second.

            It just doesn't make sense. I suspect that people like

            • by schnikies79 (788746) on Friday September 12, 2008 @09:03PM (#24986095)

              I was a bit harsh in my post. I don't really dislike the ACLU, it just disappoints me off when an organization that supports liberty doesn't always support it. I think every amendment is as important as the others.

              That being said, I support them in most every other situation and have donated to them.

              From the ACLU website: [aclu.org]

              "Given the reference to "a well regulated Militia" and "the security of a free State," the ACLU has long taken the position that the Second Amendment protects a collective right rather than an individual right."

              • by retchdog (1319261)

                Fair enough, and I agree with you (and 5 Supreme Court justices) about the inconsistency of their stance.

                I have known other people who really do hate them, and they always use the gun rights excuse. I was mostly thinking of that in general.

                But do you really think the 25th is as important as the 1st, 2nd or 19th; and this is to say nothing of the 16th? :)

          • by sarhjinian (94086)

            They don't refuse, they defer defending the 2nd to the NRA. It makes sense to let specialists do their work for them.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            I've never been a fan of the ACLU's methods. They seem to support whatever cause is in the media at the moment rather than the issues that actually need to be addressed.

          • bite me. The ACLU doesn't defend the 2nd ammendment because the NRA already does it. Why should they go stepping on toes when they can just cooperate?
        • by cayenne8 (626475)
          And according to the article: "Mike Nelson added. 'We have to have leadership that believes in empowering users and empowering citizens.'"

          And it doesn't appear that either choice this year will be that type of leadership. We desperately need a viable 3rd party candidate, that represents more closely the will of our founding fathers, and the constitution. While we're at it....I'd like a pony too.

          :(

      • by Gerzel (240421)

        What does Obama's campaign or his supporters have to do with the trend of governments taking more power and privacy away from their citizens?

        1. The current congress isn't heavilly Democratically controlled. They can't pass whatever law they please w/o some Rep support.

        2. Bush and the congress he had in his earlier years were/are Republican, and that administration doesn't have exactly a sterling shining record. A lot of freedoms were happilly taken because they were dangerous in a "post 9/11 world."

        It h

        • Same for copyright and patent law [stopsoftwarepatents.org]. A lesser evil somewhere in the cloud?

          • by Gerzel (240421)

            Yeah the lesser evil is in the unelected part of the cloud.

            • A president has just 24h. What matters is his team. I got the impression that vice-presidents are just symbolic. Who does really pull the strings? I find it frightening to find all these corporate lobbyists as part of McCain's team. Because I know them and what they did in real political struggles which are below the radar of the elections circus.

    • Good point!
    • by Maelwryth (982896)
      IANAL

      I fail to see how you can make a local law against any usage of cloud computing. After all, which country is the information in?

      And I hate to say it, but it might be time for a worldwide treaty with business that store data outside the signatory nations being blocked from doing business's in those countries.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I fail to see how you can make a local law against any usage of cloud computing.

        Oh, there'd no difficulty making a local law against cloud computing; all you need to do is get enough clueless legislators to agree on it. Enforcing it, now, that's a different, much more difficult proposition.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by AnyoneEB (574727)

      There is the pretty clear difference in that your password is not a "lock" on your data. It is simply how you let the service know it is okay to send your data over the internet and let you edit it. An actual lock for "cloud" services would be for the data to be encrypted and only decrypted client-side.

      Perhaps somehow it could be decrypted by Javascript with a passphrase entered client-side. There are lots of problems with that approach the main two that occur to me are (1) the service probably wants to ser

      • I disagree. Government agencies cannot use a bolt cutter to open a private locker in a public area, even though it is trivial to do so. In the same sense, why should they have access to password protected data?

        Even if my password can be easily guessed or cracked, I would think that, short of obtaining a warrant, my digital data cannot be accessed.
        • by AnyoneEB (574727)

          Ah, I was thinking about the privacy/"who owns the data?" concerns with relation to the entity running the service who you are essentially giving your data to, which is a real legal issue considering most services seem to claim more rights than they need. But that is a different discussion. The government, on the other hand, should never be looking at anyone's data without a warrant (or, in the worst case, an after-the-fact review by the FISA court if it applies to the instance). I apologize for the confusi

  • by RiCentro (1362973) on Friday September 12, 2008 @07:48PM (#24985607)
    I love how those who supposedly have the people's best interests in mind, would rather worry about how easy it is for them to get their hands on my information as opposed to just protecting my information.
  • Who owns the data that consumers store on the network?

    Shouldn't copyright laws apply? If you create something eligible for copyright, you automatically own it. It seems to me that the government is always looking for something new they can apply differnt laws to. Take spam, it's unsolicited advertising, but since its on the Internet, it must be different. </sarcasm>

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "Shouldn't copyright laws apply?"

      You didn't get the memo, did you? People for the Liberation Of Other Peoples Ideas have finally succeeded and copyright has been abolished. You can now do whatever you want...unfortunately like all good ideas there's a downside. You can no longer claim copyright on ANYTHING you create.

  • by sleeponthemic (1253494) on Friday September 12, 2008 @07:50PM (#24985627) Homepage
    Want to find the person who coined this stupid term and burn his house down?
    • Re:Anybody else (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Daffy Duck (17350) on Friday September 12, 2008 @07:58PM (#24985711) Homepage

      Sign me up. I've heard people claiming they put their data "in the cloud" because that makes it safer. Why do they think this? Because "the cloud" is a concept rather than an object, and therefore cannot be destroyed?

      I prefer to replace "the cloud" with "a bunch of servers I don't control and can't locate". Clears a lot of things up for me.

    • by RulerOf (975607)
      I've always heard the term "cloud" used to represent a privately owned network to which multiple people/companies connect that is not the internet.
      • by alienmole (15522)

        That is one use of the term. But in general, it just refers to a network as a whole, without singling out individual machines. It's closely related to, very likely derived from, the cloud-shaped icon that's used to denote a network in diagrams.

        In the "old days", the cloud icon would usually correspond to the network infrastructure itself, i.e. clients and servers would both connect to the cloud. The cloud itself didn't used to be perceived as a location for data storage or computing activity, because

  • by miller60 (554835) * on Friday September 12, 2008 @07:50PM (#24985629) Homepage
    The article briefly mentions a survey on cloud computing [datacenterknowledge.com] released today by Pew Internet, which warns that "sloud users show high levels of concern when presented with scenarios in which companies might use their data for purposes users may or may not fully understand ahead of time. This suggests user worry over control of the information they store online." That includes using personal information for ad targeting.

    Earlier this year Princeton University held a forum on cloud computing, which included an in-depth session of data ownership in the cloud and the issues it raises. It's available on YouTube [youtube.com] in its 90-minute entirety.
  • Don't lawmakers and the courts usually love precedent? I expect we'll see data in the cloud afforded the same measure of privacy that things stored in my locker storage locker are afforded.
    • Don't lawmakers and the courts usually love precedent?

      Only if it doesn't appear that you are a terrorist threat. Or trying to defraud the studios protected by the RIAA/MPAA. Or trying to voice an opinion that is contrary to the 'norm'.

  • Ultimately, the decisions made by policy makers on this front may not be so important. I'd like to have a government that respects my privacy, but I can always encrypt anything I don't store locally. Right now this might be involve some inconvenience, but I don't think it will be long before convenient and fast encryption is available for data stored in the cloud.

  • Easy questions. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CSMatt (1175471) on Friday September 12, 2008 @07:59PM (#24985713)

    Who owns the data that consumers store on the network?

    The customers.

    Should law enforcement agencies have easier access to personal information in the cloud than data on a personal computer?

    No.

    Do government procurement regulations need to change to allow agencies to embrace cloud computing?

    Only if they pick the wrong answers for 1 and 2.

    • by Daimanta (1140543)

      "Should law enforcement agencies have easier access to personal information in the cloud than data on a personal computer?

      No."

      But the fact is they have. It is easier to force a company into releasing data about you because they do not have an interest in the privacy of your data. If they want my offline data they will have to personally come to my house(or basement ;) ) and demand that I release my data. I now have knowledge about it and I may even have the file in an encrypted form making it hard to get. I

    • by zerocool^ (112121)

      Yeah, I don't understand how fundamentally having data on a cloud computing system is any different from having data on a shared computer, a. la. any webhost that sells shared hosting, etc.

      I mean, plan for that. Manage permissions. If you don't like it, build your own cloud.

  • Use that fun weapon known as encryption and then you can enjoy your right to privacy.
  • Color me surprised. Honestly, what doesn't draw Government action?
  • Clinton adviser? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MadAhab (40080) <slasher@@@ahab...com> on Friday September 12, 2008 @08:27PM (#24985897) Homepage Journal

    What the hell, I'll go for this one.

    The Clinton administration's opposition to encryption technology has made it vastly easier for governments to spy on their citizens, by slowing the adoption of encryption into core internet data communications.

    Even John Ashcroft opposed their restrictions (though these days he has a different attitude towards government powers).

    So spare me the crocodile tears.

    If you want your data to be secure, you better own, host, store, and secure it yourself. No major corporation is going to protect you from governmental powers, and you really wouldn't want them to have that power. At least the government is theoretically accountable to you in some way.

    As much as I like Google and Yahoo etc, you can't get the same kind of accountability from them you can from the local dogcatcher.

  • by unity100 (970058) on Friday September 12, 2008 @08:35PM (#24985941) Homepage Journal
    supposedly republicans were to be a bunch that were for less govt. control.

    EVERY goddamn thing they did in the last 8 years have been the EXACT opposite of this.

    you definitely need democrats now. at least they are not psychopath as this bunch.
    • by chromatic (9471)

      you definitely need democrats now. at least they are not psychopath as this bunch.

      The 2006 elections were over almost two years ago.

      • unfortunately they dont have enough majority to push stuff in senate.

        and with the ass whopping number of 'executive' authorities and orders bush had piled up thanks to 6 years of republican congress, i very much doubt that senate is that powerful anymore, be it republican or democrat.

        someone needs to go into white house, clear all the 'executive' authorities that have been so vulgarly given by the rep senate, and therefore restore the plural rule in the country. that cant happen if you have a republic
    • by FooAtWFU (699187)

      supposedly republicans were to be a bunch that were for less govt. control.

      Actually, quite frankly, that's why people* are excited about the Palin nomination, and how McCain can be saying that "change is coming" and not be laughed out of the election by his own party.

      *(People, of the appropriate political persuasions. This post does not seek to speculate upon the political efficacy with which any candidate will implement the alluded-to agenda of change in the future, or that the message and results antic

      • as he asked mccain :

        http://edition.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/09/12/campaign.wrap/index.html [cnn.com]

        Walters went on to press Palin's reformist credentials, noting McCain has served in Washington for more than two decades and asking repeatedly, "Who's she going to reform, you?

    • Republicans have strayed from their "less government" standpoint and are in bed with big business in general, but particularly resource-barron and credit industries.

      Democrats, however, are not only doing what the republicans do, but are traditionally (and actually) in bed with hollywood.

      You have two choices, strychnine or ricin...

      Personally, I'm actually leaning toward the republicans simply because they have so many people they're already sold out to, they may not get around to giving their handouts to the

      • all the horrible anti-internet moves came and approved during republican rule.

        republicans care much less for protests, voter sentiment, approval from what i see. democrats on the other hand, are more sensitive.

        even just remembering how dissent was treated dnc and how people's homes were raided during rnc, makes me shiver.
    • by hca (735075)
      You need libertarians. Probably closet libertarians, but libertarians. While we wait, I know I can encrypt and rehost data in -- various -- juristictions faster than a government worker can persuade another government worker to pull my encrypted data, so I feel very safe up here in the cloud. This will be a service if it isn't already. This is not really a problem. But we do need more libertarians.
    • by Sloppy (14984)

      supposedly republicans were to be a bunch that were for less govt. control.

      Republicans are only conservative when they don't have power. I think it might be part of the party platform. ;-)

  • banks? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I keep my money in a bank. What's different about keeping my data in a data bank?
    • by dodobh (65811)

      Money is fungible. Data is not.

  • Can't anyone come up something better? How about 'web software'? Jeez.

    • by PTBarnum (233319)

      Why "web software"? A lot of it has nothing to do with HTML/HTTP. For example, with Amazon's EC2, you use the web to manage your virtual hosts, but you might not have any web servers running on the hosts. Perhaps your application uses FTP, ssh, or even NFS to transfer data.

  • I posted on this very subject a few days ago. Between the Stored Communications Act and recent court interpretations of expectation of privacy in the cloud, data stored in the cloud is in real trouble. Here is my post: http://blog.jamesurquhart.com/2008/09/cloud-computing-and-constitution.html [jamesurquhart.com]

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