Who controls your data clouds? (aka beware the PATRIOT Act)

A random incoming link on my WordPress dashboard from Nourishing Obscurity reminded me about something I’d written over a year ago here in response to a piece of techno-optimism by Simon Dickson in his old blog and some Web2.0 caution from Demos’s Peter Bradwell (followed with links to a couple of relevant stories).

I said:

People are beginning to wise up to the implications of allowing those cuddly Web2.0 services to host all that nice information your give them

and noted that perhaps we should be worried about government as well as private sector exploitation of the data.

In an article today on BBC News, Bill Thompson reminds us that this problem isn’t going away:

Under the US Patriot Act the FBI and other agencies can demand to see content stored on any computer, even if it being hosted on behalf of another sovereign state.

Never mind all the other risks you need to manage when you leave someone else somewhere else to look after your critical business systems. (He points out that the UK’s RIPA is no better in the powers it gives to the government)

In August last year, I flippantly asked in Freedom of expression vs national sovereignty whether we need a new ‘Law of the Sea’ to clarify who controls whose data. Bill closes his piece with this:

Perhaps it is time for the UN to consider a cyberspace rights treaty that will outline what it’s acceptable to do when other people’s data comes into your jurisdiction.

An idea whose time is coming?


About Peter Cruickshank

Lecturer in the School of Computing and a member of the Centre for Social Informatics at Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland. Interested in information systems, learning, politics, society, security and where they intersect. My attempts at rounding out my character include food, cinema, running, history and, together with my lovely wife, bringing up a cat and a couple of kids.
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