Security, data and the cloud

It seems Canadians are still extremely skeptical of the cloud.  This is due to the ability of both the U.S. and Canadian government’s ability to access their data. I find that somewhat ironic as many people in this connected world tend to treat information security almost haphazardly.

I was traveling through Canada recently doing a series of seminars on cloud computing and the impact it is having on business and our lives. My co-speakers were from the Bennett Jones law firm. From almost every group we spoke to, we heard thought-provoking comments about the laws around data security.

But as I would look around the room, I would notice most of the attendees had smartphones, and I’m sure almost all of them had downloaded an app or two at some time. Remember the last time you downloaded an app on your smartphone? Most likely you were asked to accept the terms and conditions of the application before it was installed. Now, be honest; did you read the entire license agreement before you chose to accept?

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If you are like most people, the actual answer is most likely “no.” You may have glanced through it while scrolling to the bottom, but those documents can be long and tedious to read, so most folks just blindly hit the accept button and assume the application vendors have your best interests in mind. These documents actually include some important disclosures you should be aware of about how your information will be used. The crazy guys over at South Park Studios actually did an episode about the subject, in which Kyle was subjected to some less-than-positive treatment by Apple because the agreement he accepted included the company’s ability to use him as a test subject without further permission, but I won’t go there, as it was pretty gross.

I bring this up because even as cloud computing is becoming the predominant way business operates, some people still have nagging concerns about the security of business data in the cloud – even though, in some cases, their personal information is already on display for anyone to see.

Think about it this way: do you have a Facebook or LinkedIn account? Have you ever done a search on Google? Ever use a credit card or buy anything over the Internet? Have you ever blindly accepted the license agreement for a downloaded application? Do you use the GPS navigation functions on your phone? All these activities generate data about who you are, where you live, where you go, what you buy, and more. 

It’s amazing how much personal information people disseminate about themselves without even thinking about it, while at the same time they are still having concerns about cloud computing and the security of their information for business use. The truth of the matter is most cloud providers are aware of the data security laws within each country, state, locality or province regarding cloud services, as well as the penalties for not adhering to strict security practices. Most cloud providers will likely do a much better job of protecting your information than the typical Facebook user who has their most personal information on display. The cloud is safer than you think, and security practices are only getting better as providers implement data encryption in flight and at rest.

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