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US Government: You Don't Own Your Cloud Data So We Can Access It At Any Time 531

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-trust-us dept.
New submitter jest3r writes "On Tuesday the EFF filed a brief proposing a process for the Court in the Megaupload case to hold the government accountable for the actions it took (and failed to take) when it shut down Megaupload's service and denied third parties access to their property. Many businesses used Megaupload's cloud service to store and share files not related to piracy. The government is calling for a long, drawn-out process that would require individuals or small companies to travel to courts far away and engage in multiple hearings just to get their own property back. Additionally, the government's argument that you lose all your property rights by storing your data on the cloud could apply to Amazon's S3 or Google Apps or Apple iCloud services as well (see page 4 of their filing)."
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US Government: You Don't Own Your Cloud Data So We Can Access It At Any Time

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  • So.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by roc97007 (608802) on Friday November 02, 2012 @01:42PM (#41855133) Journal

    Anyone surprised?

    • Re:So.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Friday November 02, 2012 @01:43PM (#41855143)

      hey, what's that pressure I feel?

      its the pressure of a boot, stomping on your face. pressing down, always pressing down.

    • Re:So.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday November 02, 2012 @01:59PM (#41855395) Homepage Journal

      Were the Rolling Stones singing to the US Government? HEY, YOU, GET OFF OF MY CLOUD!

      One more reason to maintain your own data and backups. Like you say, this shouldn't have surprised anyone.

    • Anyone surprised?

      Of course not. The US government is bald-facedly beholden only to corporations and turned the country into a true opressive totalitarian state. I have a real opportunity to live and work in Japan, I'm seriously considering taking the offering company up on it and sayng "fuck this".

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        As a foreigner in Japan you will have NO rights. Good luck with that.

      • Re:So.... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Friday November 02, 2012 @03:23PM (#41856845)

        Anyone surprised?

        Of course not. The US government is bald-facedly beholden only to corporations and turned the country into a true oppressive totalitarian state. I have a real opportunity to live and work in Japan, I'm seriously considering taking the offering company up on it and sayng "fuck this".

        In this case, I'm not sure it's all about the government being beholden to corporations, as it seems Megaupload is getting screwed too, as well as any other companies that may have legitimate data on those servers. The government's behavior shows that it's more about Government wanting to do whatever they want w/o regard to anyone's (personal or corporate) rights - you know, for the "greater good" - and setting a precedent for such activity.

        True, they're pursuing supposed copyright infringement, but we, the people, voted in the unethical, corrupt monkeys that passed the laws being enforced. Perhaps after enough poo has been flung, we'll get up off our lazy asses and do some laundry...

    • Re:So.... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by History's Coming To (1059484) on Friday November 02, 2012 @02:28PM (#41855963) Journal
      That I don't own the data on umpteen computers owned by company X who are hiring the equipment from company Y who rent server racks in facility Z? No, not surprised in the slightest.

      You want full control of your data? Own the hardware and don't plug it into the interwebs.
    • by Zemran (3101)

      Another nail in America's corporate coffin as businesses move to wherever has the sense to look after the customer...

    • Re:So.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sakshale (598643) on Friday November 02, 2012 @03:46PM (#41857279) Homepage Journal

      Here is an analogy;

      I rent a locker at a local storage locker company.
      The guy with the locker next to mine, fills his with drugs ... and gets caught.
      Police put a crime scene tape around the entire facility and block my access to my stuff.
      Police want to verify that there isn't any drugs in my locker.

      What happens next?

      • Re:So.... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Mitreya (579078) <(mitreya) (at) (gmail.com)> on Friday November 02, 2012 @04:41PM (#41858133)

        I rent a locker at a local storage locker company.
        The guy with the locker next to mine, fills his with drugs ... and gets caught.
        Police put a crime scene tape around the entire facility and block my access to my stuff.
        Police want to verify that there isn't any drugs in my locker.

        I think you missed the best part.
        Police confiscates drugs along with your stuff and the contents of every other locker in the facility
        You are invited to sue them and prove that your stuff is yours and is acquired legally. But you are (probably) never getting your things back if you just wait.

  • by Holi (250190) on Friday November 02, 2012 @01:43PM (#41855151)

    Does this mean that my backups to Barracuda Networks cloud service are no longer mine? This would kill cloud services.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 02, 2012 @01:50PM (#41855241)

      Yes.

      The US gov has long held that your webmail doesn't belong to you either.

      The feds already have full access to your gmail or hotmail account, and everything in it.

    • by SuperKendall (25149) on Friday November 02, 2012 @01:52PM (#41855267)

      Does this mean that my backups to Barracuda Networks cloud service are no longer mine?

      I don't get where supposed rational technical people on Slashdot of all places, think that any data they transmit over public networks NEVERMIND then storing said data on hard drives owned and physically controlled by someone else, was ever YOURS.

      Forget law. The physical reality of the thing is that by definition, any data you are keeping on devices controlled by someone else is never really yours. You just might be able to access it, and even that is never guaranteed.

      Cloud backups are great as a cheap last offsite resort but are not the same as backups that you physically control. You should never have data you care about recovering on a cloud service that you do not also have in multiple copies on devices you own.

      Any other notion is just fantasy.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 02, 2012 @01:59PM (#41855397)

        By your logic the money we keep in the bank isn't ours either.

        • by Kahlandad (1999936) on Friday November 02, 2012 @02:01PM (#41855449)

          or, for that matter, the skulls in my safety deposit box...

        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 02, 2012 @02:20PM (#41855787)

          Of course it isn't. The banks can keep you from your money any time they want. They've actually done it in the past. The only thing keeping them from just right out claiming your money is a fragile social contract...

        • Logic is sound. We don't necessarily own the money we place into banks. MF Global comes to mind. Furthermore, try to take out a large amount and see what happens. Either they won't have the cash on hand (call ahead to get your money!) or you're going to have some paperwork to fill out. To, you know, prove you're not funding terrorism or something. There are limits to what one can do with one's money after it's been deposited. Using a bank, one is essentially storing money for them to use as loans, investme
        • by SuperKendall (25149) on Friday November 02, 2012 @02:28PM (#41855971)

          By your logic the money we keep in the bank isn't ours either.

          Sorry to go all Eliza on you, but what makes you think it is?

          If there is a run on the bank, and you are not fast enough - you do not get your money. Simple as that.

          You may get re-imbursed by FDIC, but that doesn't change what happened.

          There is a vast difference between what is yours by law and what you can practically access. All I am saying is everyone should realize there is a difference and be prepared.

          In the case of the server I have zero pity for anyone who kept data only on the servers that were seized. Yes it is there data, but they also had responsibility if that data was important to keep it somewhere they controlled.

      • by jedidiah (1196) on Friday November 02, 2012 @02:03PM (#41855485) Homepage

        I don't get where supposed rational technical people on Slashdot of all places, think that any data they transmit over public networks NEVERMIND then storing said data on hard drives owned and physically controlled by someone else, was ever YOURS.

        Sounds a lot like stuff transported over public roads.

        You moved it in your car from your house a the local U-Haul storage locker. You used an Interstate Highway. Therefore it's not really your property. Now the government can come and take it at will. Great logic there.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          thank you.

          the tranport has NOTHING, NOTHING to do with your privacy and rights.

          why link the two? this is playing into their trap!

          "oh, but you stored it blah and it went over blah and it left your house ..."

          so fucking what!

          seriously - so what. and I wrapped it in a blue envelope and its 'we hate blue envelopes day' today so we get to keep it.

          arbitrary reasons, repeated many times, does not make them have any more sense and reason.

          yes, my data went over wires I don't own. SO FUCKING WHAT!

          what's next: anyth

        • Sounds a lot like stuff transported over public roads.

          Correct. Which is why anything of value is moved over said roads in guarded and/or armored transport.

          You moved it in your car from your house a the local U-Haul storage locker. You used an Interstate Highway. Therefore it's not really your property

          You seem to be confusing law with reality.

          The property, by law is still yours.

          BUT you are no longer in control of it. The storage locker owner can access it at any time, as can any burglar.

          Can you please try

          • The government is trying to say that the data is not legally yours because it's stored on someone else's server.

            This is akin to saying your property is not legally yours because it's stored in a storage locker that you rented.

            In both cases you are paying someone to store something for you. In both cases it legally *should* still belong to you.

        • by dywolf (2673597)

          that has nothing do with what he said.

          he said if you own a thing, and you then give that thing over to SOMEONE ELSE FOR SAFEKEEPING, you lose control of it. which is logically sound, you do lose direct control of it; you have instead entrusted that SOMEONE ELSE with controling it in your interests usually defined by a contract.

          however i believe that while you may have ceded direct control to someone else, you have -NOT- ceded ownership (no reciept, no bill of sale, etc). and as such, Constitutional protecti

      • Nothing is ever "really" yours, since property is just an idea.

        But I'd say that an encrypted blob (encrypted locally!) in a cloud service somewhere is more "yours" than an unencrypted blob in a hard drive in your home. Most people don't live in bunkers where you need more than a few tools to get into, but an encrypted blob requires you to disclose the passphrase (voluntarily or not).

        • But I'd say that an encrypted blob (encrypted locally!) in a cloud service somewhere is more "yours" than an unencrypted blob in a hard drive in your home.

          I don't really follow that, all of that data is yours equally, encrypted or not, wherever it lives.

          But the thing is, if all you have is that encrypted blob on the server you do not control, then someone else can prevent access to it. It may not be right to do so; that is irrelevant. The fact is that you could have, because it was digital data, easily ha

      • by Bob9113 (14996) on Friday November 02, 2012 @02:41PM (#41856175) Homepage

        I don't get where supposed rational technical people on Slashdot of all places, think that any data they transmit over public networks NEVERMIND then storing said data on hard drives owned and physically controlled by someone else, was ever YOURS.

        Depends on your definition of "YOURS". Most people in modern Western civilizations recognize a distinction between posession and ownership.

        The physical reality of the thing is that by definition, any data you are keeping on devices controlled by someone else is never really yours.

        Shall I assume, by that definition, that you never park your car anywhere except on your own property, and that you never leave it in the custody of an auto repair or maintenance facility? Similarly, have you never left your coat at a coat check, or let your dry cleaner have posession of your clothing?

        Your statement is both valid and poignant regarding the risk of a custodian unlawfully distributing or granting access to your information. This argument, however, claims you have no legal standing regarding the information in the first place, like saying you no longer own your street clothes when you leave them in the gym locker.

        Cloud backups are great as a cheap last offsite resort but are not the same as backups that you physically control. You should never have data you care about recovering on a cloud service that you do not also have in multiple copies on devices you own.

        Your advice is sound, particularly in the current legally uncertain context. But it does not imply that the government's argument is reasonable or excusable. It is our responsibility to the future of our nation to protect its information security from these misguided government officials. We must raise our voices against this sort of behavior precisely because our legal right to our information is not yet rooted in statutory bedrock.

      • by Artraze (600366)

        > Forget law. The physical reality of the thing is that...

        The physical reality of the thing is that the government can break into your house, murder your pets and family, torture you for all your passwords, download your data, and then shoot you in the head and torch the place.

        The law (and associated notions of civility, etc) is _everything_. Without it, every notion is just fantasy.

  • by RichMan (8097) on Friday November 02, 2012 @01:44PM (#41855171)

    Nice move government you just destroyed pretty much all of the cloud computing industry.

    Huzzah.

    • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Friday November 02, 2012 @01:50PM (#41855243)

      Nice move government you just destroyed pretty much all of the cloud computing industry.

      Huzzah.

      Yeah. Say you're a business relying on cloud storage/computing:

      1. Use cloud services

      2. Someone else also using cloud service suspected of doing something illegal.

      3. Service provider shut down/seized by feds.

      4. No profit.

      There's not even room for the ambiguity of a "???" in that sequence.

      • by X0563511 (793323) on Friday November 02, 2012 @02:07PM (#41855565) Homepage Journal

        It wouldn't be such a problem if they would stop shutting the whole damn thing down whenever someone does something wrong. They don't need to do that. I'm surprised they haven't figured out they could get by without a lot of whining/protesting if they just stop using a bulldozer when a hammer is appropriate.

      • ANYONE considering using cloud services for their critical, just-in-time business infrastructure (or any business for that matter) is FOOLISH. If this doesn't shut down cloud services right now, immediately, people are just what we've all suspected on /., sheep. Keep an eye out for legislation outlawing encryption, or at least triple strength stuff. Yes, the feds can warrant you to open your shit up now, but just sayin', in the future, look for them to sily do away with the inconvineince. "Oh, it costs the
    • by mlts (1038732) * on Friday November 02, 2012 @01:59PM (#41855407)

      Realistically, what might end up happening is that some startup gets off the ground whose sole function in life is to provide an in-house encryption appliance similar to a HSM. Data goes in to the module, encrypted data gets stored in the cloud. All keys are kept in a "physically secure" 1U rack module with a USB port in front so one can back up the keys stored in the device.

      Businesses will buy those encryption appliances, and IT goes on as normal.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Friday November 02, 2012 @02:26PM (#41855905) Journal

      Nonsense, there could hardly be a bigger stimulus. If you don't own your data when it's in the cloud, you can't be responsible for it. Just keep all your pirated material in the cloud and watch Amazon get sued for it.

      Wait, you mean you can still get sued for data hosted in the cloud? So it's my data when it's convenient for the government, and it's not my data when it's convenient for the government.

  • Flipside (Score:5, Interesting)

    by areusche (1297613) on Friday November 02, 2012 @01:45PM (#41855173)
    Does this mean that all of those copyrighted works I am hosting "in the cloud" are no longer the property of their respected copyright holders? I can see this being argued in all sorts of funny ways.
    • Re:Flipside (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Baloroth (2370816) on Friday November 02, 2012 @01:58PM (#41855377)

      Does this mean that all of those copyrighted works I am hosting "in the cloud" are no longer the property of their respected copyright holders? I can see this being argued in all sorts of funny ways.

      No no, see, because those rights holders have lots of very expensive lawyers on retainer. Do you? Thought not.

    • Re:Flipside (Score:4, Interesting)

      by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Friday November 02, 2012 @02:04PM (#41855511)
      You are an individual. Your rights are irrelevant if a corporation might lose money when your rights an enforced. Well, only those corporations that have friends in high places, like movie studios. Actually, it's just turtles all the way down, by which I mean corrupt major party politicians all the way up.
  • Bullshit. (Score:5, Informative)

    by bmo (77928) on Friday November 02, 2012 @01:45PM (#41855189)

    >Additionally, the government's argument that you lose all your property rights by storing your data on the cloud

    Bullshit. I don't lose the rights to my property if they are in the temporary posession of a third party. If it was so, then nobody could rent anythiing ever or even check a coat.

    Hurr.

    --
    BMO

    • Re:Bullshit. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by oh_my_080980980 (773867) on Friday November 02, 2012 @01:55PM (#41855321)
      Actually you do for cloud services. Read the contracts that Google has....so the government can argue you don't have any expectation of property rights if you waive them with the cloud carrier. Then again, you could argue, the contract is between you and google and not the government. Therefore the government cannot assume it gets the same rights, as set force in the contract, as the cloud carrier.

      Oooo the arguments....
      • by Mitreya (579078)

        Actually you do for cloud services. Read the contracts that Google has....so the government can argue you don't have any expectation of property rights if you waive them with the cloud carrier.

        Huh? I haven't read the contract with google, but do you really relinquish your rights to data??
        I assume the contract says that they are not liable if they lose your data and that you should have backups, but I would be surprised if the ToS actually said that Google can take your data (copy it and deny you access) and use it for something else whenever they feel like it.

    • Re:Bullshit. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by scsirob (246572) on Friday November 02, 2012 @01:56PM (#41855327)

      This is like the government saying that your car no longer belongs to you when you park it on a public road. Bullshit indeed.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Public road is not the same as a cloud service. The better analogy would be parking garage.
      • but then again, you have a very different set of rights (much stronger) when you are home and 'in your castle' than when you are, say, driving in your car or even worse, inside an airplane that is public.

        the law seems to think that it matters, where your property is.

        boggles me. seems stupid and like a glaring bug in the system.

        then again, I think our system is totally bug-ridden and ready to self explode in our (or the next) generation. I have the lowest amount of faith in our current system when it comes

    • Re:Bullshit. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Friday November 02, 2012 @02:17PM (#41855729) Journal

      Actually, this is wrong. IANAL, but I *am* a right-wing logician so everything I say makes extreme amounts of sense.

      What you need to understand here is that data stored "in the cloud" is data stored in leased property. That is, you store the data in property owned by someone else who has conferred to you access rights to use their property for storage--in fact, Web services like AWS hosted servers could be considered similar to living and operating space.

      To the point, in one model you lease a home--house, apartment--or a building or office area in a building. Legally, leases make you a tenant, which gives you rights of occupancy. As such, the property is yours--the landlord is not legally capable of conferring to police the right to enter the property; the landlord cannot even enter the property himself without your consent, except in emergency situations (including property damage--leaking pipes etc). Thus you have legal ownership of everything in the rented space, and legal jurisdiction over such.

      Cloud services similarly confer tenancy onto a customer. Certain facilities are turned over to the customer, keys made (login accounts), leases billed. The facilities are owned by the cloud service provider; however there are terms of lease, there is an expectation of control over facilities, an expectation of non-intrusion. Loading your data into "the cloud" doesn't confer the right for the provider to happily peruse your data. Your data could contain customer personal information, which would place the provider into a situation of high liability for casually perusing.

      Counter-arguments about terms-of-service and other such things can be made here; but consider simply what would happen if a service provider chose to data mine through customers' private data. Think of the civil and criminal possibilities. We quickly realize that, in practice, such behavior would result in severe suits. If we surmise that the courts would judge against the provider, then we admit that a cloud service is a tenancy, a lease to resources and to space, and that it comes with tenant assumptions such as residency in said space--privacy, control, ownership.

      This complicates things. On the other hand, it creates more resistance than grey area: it makes it ... difficult to argue that a service provider has the right to turn over data of a customer, or that the police can order suspension of services to tenants through the service provider without an order to the tenants. It provides that ownership must be seized from tenants--search and seizure of the general service provider is potentially not legal, and could cause uncomfortable, difficult, complicated court battles.

  • by sandytaru (1158959) on Friday November 02, 2012 @01:46PM (#41855203) Journal
    At least with Drop box, even if the cloud goes down I still have all my local copies. Won't stop the feds from digging around my data, but at least I won't have to fight in court to get it back.

    All of our BDR servers also run on a triplicate model - the original data, the data on the backup server, and a copy of the most critical data in the cloud just in case the building catches on fire.
  • by who_stole_my_kidneys (1956012) on Friday November 02, 2012 @01:47PM (#41855207)
    not sure why I'm surprised at the stupidity of this and how it impacts every cloud computing business. So long Amazon cloud service, Azure, Google, and any other service that claims protection in the cloud.
  • What about money? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 02, 2012 @01:47PM (#41855211)

    Most of my money is "stored" by my bank, backed by promissory notes which in turn are notionally backed by gold deposits stored in some other location that my bank doesn't know about. It's all in the cloud, and has been my entire life. Do I still have property rights over that?

    • Property rights? Over money stored at a bank? In a bank-account?

      Sorry, you don't own that money. The only thing you have is credit. The bank promises to give you that amount of money when you ask for it. That's all.

      So, well, the answer is; no.

  • local storage FTW (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Janek Kozicki (722688) on Friday November 02, 2012 @01:48PM (#41855225) Journal

    cloud storage is an easy target: it hosts data of many individuals, and is a single entity. Of course govt will want easy access to that, since that's a lot simpler than requesting access from each person separately.

    And that is why I never wanted to use cloud storage. I didn't need it also, to be honest. I always prefer my personal servers that I manage myself, and can encrypt & backup at my own desire.

  • Safe Deposit Boxes? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mveloso (325617) on Friday November 02, 2012 @01:51PM (#41855251)

    Shouldn't the EFF argue that a cloud service is the equivalent of a bank's safe deposit box? Someone else holds your property on your behalf. For SDBs, the government needs a warrant...just like if your stuff was in the cloud.

  • by oneiros27 (46144) on Friday November 02, 2012 @01:57PM (#41855361) Homepage

    The courts established a long time ago that you don't have the same property rights under the 4th amendment when it's stored with a third party.

    I've raised this issue whenever I hear that a legal office has outsourced their mail service (do they still have attorney-client privilege if the information has been 'shared' with the ISP?)

    There are two issues -- (1) does it require a warrant and (2) do they have to notify you of the warrant (so that you can contest it) or only the party holding the information?

    There was an article on the topic in the Journal of Consitutional Law [upenn.edu] a couple of years ago. One of the key things -- ECPA considers any email stored for 180 days can be obtained from an ISP without notifying the user. There was a case in 2008 that found that argued against it and the court agreed, but the case was overturned on other issues so the decision never stood as a precident. It has some interesting things to consider, such as the issues with using a cloud-based thing client without knowing it (in the example, a kid setting up a computer for his uncle), and losing their fourth amendment rights.

  • So what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lennier1 (264730) on Friday November 02, 2012 @02:03PM (#41855477)

    When the governments of the USA and Iran are using the same playbook you shouldn't really be surprised by stuff like this.

  • GovCloud (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bWareiWare.co.uk (660144) on Friday November 02, 2012 @02:04PM (#41855501) Homepage

    Dose it apply to http://aws.amazon.com/govcloud-us/ [amazon.com]

  • Yeah Gee (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Friday November 02, 2012 @02:23PM (#41855851) Homepage Journal
    If only there were a way to keep the Government from seizing your property! You should have a right to own your property! Now if only there were an enumeration... maybe a bill... of those rights somewhere... that the Government would have to abide by. And by design such a thing should have a process by which it could be updated as technologies advance in a way that society could not have predicted at the time of its writing.

    But yeah, I know, that's just crazy talk...

  • by nick_davison (217681) on Friday November 02, 2012 @02:42PM (#41856183)

    US Government: "You don't own anything stored in the cloud."

    Kim Dotcom: "Sweet. The US government has declared cloud stored data is not 'owned.' If you don't own it, if it's not yours, how could you possibly be liable for it? Everyone please subscribe to my new service fuMPAAItsAllInTheCloud.com!"

  • by bornagainpenguin (1209106) on Friday November 02, 2012 @03:38PM (#41857151)

    Considering how everyone always laughs at me, calls me a luddite, tells me the future is the cloud, etc whenever I complain about the latest tablets and phones being released without some sort of user loadable storage, is this news enough of a reason to make you rethink your positions?

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Friday November 02, 2012 @03:38PM (#41857155) Homepage

    All my data on the Google Drive and Dropbox is encrypted by me first. Have fun trying to crack it.

    Fun note: some of the files are simply dumps of /dev/random with fun filenames like "secret-files.zip" and "plan-b.tgz"

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