Nowadays most people don’t give an online purchase a second thought. With one click purchasing available through Amazon, and Google shopping never more than a click away, it’s no wonder. We take almost anything for granted, but is there a fundamental flaw in our decision to accept without question the safety and security of the internet?
The question of Data ownership is one that is increasing in interest. Some very savvy people are starting to take action by securing their data in a number of different ways, but there are still plenty of people out there who are blithely operating online without a care in the world.
Let’s take a look at cloud storage, which has been a bit of a buzz phrase over the last year or so. Cloud storage in effect is an online storage space. You can’t see it, but it’s there – and there’s enough room for everything! Cloud storage is now a common offering from telecommunication and IT companies, and clients tend to allow themselves to be convinced without considering the potential security issues. Cloud storage may be safe with some companies and not with others – the security depends on the hosting.
One of the main problems with cloud storage is the way it is sold. Companies refer to ‘the cloud’, as if your precious working files float to the top of the room and keep going, until they nestle snugly in white puffy cushions in the sky which are never ending in size. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Each operator will have a different contract relating to cloud storage, and what exactly can be expected from them.
One possible situation of course is for a cloud storage company to go out of business, so it’s critically important for any clients to fully understand the agreement they come to with cloud storage companies. Like any business agreement, there will be a contract, and most likely some small print. You need to know unequivocally that your files are safe with whoever you are storing them with, so reading the small print is vitally important.
This leads us on nicely to Google Drive, which under first inspection appears to be nothing more than a minor update and name change for Google Docs. However, Google Drive is really pushing the benefit of its cloud storage. Now, we’re the first people to say that we don’t think business closure is going to be an issue for Google, so no worries about the system closing down in the near future. However, there are some significant issues when it comes to their cloud storage.
Firstly, there’s 5GB of free storage which is great on the face of things. You can feel secure knowing that everything is automatically stored in the cloud. However, once you dip into their terms of service, the eagle eyed amongst you will notice that Google has a clause which suggests that they can use consumer data to improve and promote their own services. To go beyond this, we’re also lead to believe that Google can use what they find in Google drive to create alternative derivative works, and use and distribute these creations publically. Their ability to do this lies in the fact that most cloud storage contracts and agreements tend to be a little murky and difficult to decipher. You can read some of the TOS you will come across until you are blue in the face, but you may well be no better off for it.
Some people will find comfort in the fact that Google states that the user of Google Drive owns their data, and that private storage archives will remain private. That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t exactly marry with information from the previous paragraph. There’s not much point having ownership of something when the company that is looking after it can use it for their own purposes without even asking.
The big issue here is that things are so vague when it comes to cloud storage. Google uses some standard terms of service for their Google Drive system. This blanket policy can’t possibly scrutinize the circumstances of cloud storage, and therefore does not adequately serve the user. Google Drive does however ask specifically for specific rights form its users when it comes to their data. Let’s face it – if users were really in control of their own data, Google wouldn’t require any rights at all.
When it comes to how you approach cloud storage yourself, then that is down to you. Some people will have a very relaxed approach to the issue, but this is not necessarily a good thing. Some experts would suggest that there are ways to protect yourself, by backing up yourself what you have released into the cloud. Ashley Podhradsky, the Assistant Professor of Computing and Security of Drexel University in America feels that there are certain things that just should not be stored in the cloud. He suggests strongly that anything that identifies who you are is bad news in the cloud, and also recommends using a second archive to duplicate any of your personal data that is in the cloud.
In part two of this article, we will be looking at other services which may compromise the ownership of our data, and we will look into ways of protecting our data, no matter where it is stored.