“Computing in the Cloud” – Love It! / Hate It!

by on November 30, 2007 · 0 comments

Ed Felten has announced a workshop at Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy called “Computing in the Cloud.”

“Computing in the cloud” refers to the trend toward online services that run in a Web browser and store users’ information in a provider’s data center. Examples include webmail services such as Hotmail and Gmail, online photo sites such as Flickr, social networks such as Facebook and Myspace, office suites such as Google Docs, markets such as eBay, and many more.

This is an important subject and the workshop looks like it will explore some very interesting issues. Among them is the increasingly outdated doctrine that information held by third parties cannot be the subject of Fourth Amendment protection. (The problem was summarized well by Julian Sanchez on TechDirt a few days ago.)

Here’s my problem: The Internet is not a cloud! It is a network of telecommunications providers and Internet service providers that have legal commitments to one another and to end-users. I’m concerned with talk of the Internet or computing as happening in a “cloud” because this could be used to deny the rights and responsibilities of each actor in the network.

Clouds drop water as rain at random across the earth. The Internet should not do that with data, and we shouldn’t talk about it as a thing that could.

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