Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Pick out your cloud

In response to the 'cloud computing' strategy that the European Commission presented last week (Unleashing the potential of cloud computing), concerns are raised about the protection of users in the cloud. The Commission's strategy follows up on the proposal for new data protection rules and aims at clarifying standards for 'cloud computing', meaning the storage of data (such as text files, pictures and video) and software on remote computers, which users access over the internet on the device of their choice. While the key actions proposed by the Commission are mostly aimed at creating a seamless digital space for cloud providers, various sources point out that the protection of users should also be high on the agenda. As a Finnish newspaper writes (summarised on eurotopics):

'Clouds are already here, and they're here to stay in Europe. … It's crucial for the EU apparatus to protect the rights of consumers and company customers as regards the use of cloud services. Contract models for clarifying the main disputed issues are already in the pipeline. Customers must know in which countries their data is stored. Regulations also need to be established for the transfer of data, its destruction and data protection. Nonetheless Cloud services should not just be seen as a risk. People should also participate in the development of such services, because otherwise the branch will evolve without any input from Europe or Finland.'

The experience of some Dutch journalists whose data were mixed in the cloud also illustrates that user protection is a necessary feature of successful extension of the remote digital space (their story is available here, in Dutch).

Finally, privacy and cloud computing were among the topics discussed at last week's conference of the European Law Institute and may result in new projects of the institute.

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