Cloud Computing and Its Privacy Problems: Study Proves

Companies that decide to opt for cloud computing services in an attempt to reduce their IT costs and operational complexity, must first make sure not to embark on a journey full of privacy issues, says a report released by the World Privacy Forum. This document is a response to comments made ??last week in a forum dedicated to IDC cloud computing, where some speakers described concerns about the Cloud Computing privacy issues of cloud environments as “exaggerated and emotive.”

The World Privacy Forum does not think so and believes that, even accounting for business benefits, this service also has weaknesses that can mean significant risks in terms of  Cloud Computing privacy and sensitivities of corporate information. “There are many companies that do not even think about Cloud Computing privacy Problems when deciding to opt for cloud computing, “says Pam Dixon, executive director of World Privacy Forum. In view of this charge, “no organization should consider the placement of its customer data to a virtual platform that does not all the assurances regarding the privacy of information.”

The following is a list of potential privacy issues presented in the report.

  • Disregard for regulations. Companies can inadvertently breach the regulations regarding the privacy of information if they are not careful, warns the report. For example, an institution that uses a cloud service to host personal data may be in violation of the “Privacy Act” of 1974, especially if safeguard measures to protect data in the contract are clearly mentioned by the cloud computing provider. Moreover, the document said, the laws governing the management of federal records and making them available could get inadvertently violated if information on officers ends up in unintended hands.
  •  HIPAA and Gramm- Leach-Bliley Act- privacy regulations stipulated by laws such as HIPAA and Gramm- Leach-Bliley Act, prevent companies from disclosing patients’ personal data or financial information with third parties unless provided for in contracts previously signed. The report gives the example of the IRS regulations, which prevent accountants from using third parties such as providers of cloud computing, to lodge tax returns. “There are many companies who put data on cloud platforms illegally without even realizing it,” noted Pam Dixon. Read the fine print of contracts. Companies must understand the terms and conditions of data disclosure established by the providers of cloud computing, and the rights of access and storage to include in contracts, have a significant effect on Cloud Computing privacy, says the report of the World Privacy Forum. And, according to Pam Dixon, the risks of breach of privacy may be further aggravated if a cloud computing provider reserves the right to freely change the terms and procurement rules. Therefore, customers should make sure they are protected against the possibility that the cloud computing provider access or use the data with ulterior motives (using, for example, a database of contacts to develop their own marketing campaigns).
  • Loss of protection: Saving data in systems based on cloud and accessing them via the Internet may be something contrary to the legal protections associated with sensitive data, the report says. For example, privileged information between lawyers and clients may lose their protection if they are stored on third party servers.

Image courtesy of FutUndBeidl

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