Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"Clouded Judgement"

The definition of cloud computing is a bit hard to clearly define, as it's already so intertwined in our daily computing experience. For the purpose of this discourse let's say it's your computer application running on somebody else's server, accessed via the internet.  To a certain extent I believe this concept has considerable merit, for instance "Google Documents" would come in handy if you were traveling while writing a book,  editing magazine articles or a blog, you could access the documents from any internet capable device, virtually anywhere in the world on anyone's equipment, very convenient.

"Pandora One" on the iPad Nano
If you use Picasa  or Photobucket, both a nice way to share photos with friends and family, you're cloud computing. I personally use Picasa for the images on this humble little blog. And of course lets not forget the awesome "YouTube" experience or my current fondness for the amazing iPod Touch and many of it's cloud dependent apps. Imagine being able to access your own "virtual desktop" on any computer, while traveling, or at a friend or relatives house. There are already vendors supplying cloud based virtual desktop applications such as "Cloudo" (still in beta), or "icloud", offering a free online computer with desktop, applications and storage (3 GB. free). I've subscribed to both and while they're each still a bit buggy and slow, they do convey a decent idea of the concept. This certainly presents some interesting possibilities for a business user or student, or as a supplement to an existing system. As it's necessary to have some type of device to access "the cloud", and being limited to the public library or a smart phone isn't going to cut it, I definitely don't want to give up my laptop just yet.
Of course if anything unfortunate happened to the laptop,... with the cloud, I'd still be in business.

                                  The icloud "Virtual Desktop"

However.......while the storage of user data on remote servers is not new, the current emphasis on and expansion of cloud computing warrants a more careful look at its actual and potential privacy and confidentiality consequences. Who else has access to my files, documents, photos, you know, the ones I don't share publicly? What type of "end user license agreement" (EULA) did I enter into with my cloud service provider? What rights do they have with regards to my personal documents, files, photos? If I want to drop their service do they keep copies of my stuff on their system? Have you seen the recently disputed Facebook EULA?

 It reads in part:

"By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose, commercial, advertising, or otherwise, on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing. You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time".

What the?..... Does that mean what I think it means?

That's right folks, "they" want to own everything "you" post on their servers. If you're a songwriter or a professional photographer you might want to think twice about posting your stuff on Facebook or any other social networking site for that matter. The way I read it they could even sell your personal photos for commercial advertising purposes under these terms (by incorporating into "other works"). Cool, I could unknowingly appear in a "Preparation H" magazine ad or something... (I think I even know which photo they would use)....

If you think that you're the Facebook customer, you've got it, well, ... a little backwards... You are the commodity they are selling. Your personal information, web habits, interests or whatever information they can glean from your postings. (no it's not just the little ads that they want you to look at). Have you paid them anything? Someone certainly has. You don't think they're supplying all that "free" computer infrastructure because the world, or at least your 527 "close personal friends" needs to know if  "Your Royal Majesty" had a bad hair day, or that your every little personal utterance is of national significance, do you?  Once again,  "There's no such thing as Free"

Now I don't know about you, but I really don't want every personal document, email, photo, every idea or invention I'm working on, every song I'm writing or whatever, my every freakin keystroke, sitting on someone else's system. I'm sure the cloud service provider and all of their employees are honest and possess bulletproof integrity right?  None of them would ever sell or use any of my personal information for their own personal gain or profit would they?


You've probably heard about the latest Wikileaks debacle?
 I believe I'm only personally referenced a couple of times in the Wiki-leaked information, dealing with my interactions with "Secretary of State" Clinton...
( Hi Hillary, hit me up on my cell later baby, the usual time...)

Even if you aren't hiding some dark personal secret or haven't yet secured the patent rights to the atomic fusion reactor you're building in the basement, do you want to be tied to an underpowered computer that relies on a web connection and the providers version of software applications for most if not all of your computing needs? I'm not even a fan of online back up services, with the price and variety of memory types currently available, why in the heck would anyone want to back up to an offsite storage facility, ( possibly for a large business ) entrusting access to all of your personal files to whoever works at said facility. If your worried about your house burning down and destroying your info, why not back up to a trusted family members system and vice versa. Or keep a set of discs in a fireproof safe...

A Few "Cloud Computing" Tips for the Private Citizen :

  • Read the Terms of Service before placing any information in the cloud. If you don’t understand the Terms of Service, consider using a different cloud provider. 
  • Don’t put anything in the cloud you would not want the government or a private litigant to see.
  • Pay close attention if the cloud provider reserves rights to use, disclose, or make public your information.
  • Read the privacy policy before placing your information in the cloud. If you don’t understand the policy, consider using a different provider.
  • When you remove your data from the cloud provider, does the cloud provider still retain rights to your information? If so, consider whether that makes a difference to you.
  • Will the cloud provider give advance notice of any change of terms in the terms of service or privacy policy?

 Although, I do kind of like the idea of having as much personal data as possible compiled and readily available for my "Big Brother" to access in case they feel the need to implement a "Police State" for my own personal well being. After all, what if I've unknowingly been doing or thinking about something they consider dangerous or subversive? This could allow them to step in and protect me, from myself. These are the fine folks who safeguard my Social Security and have dedicated their time and energy to insuring  the integrity of our national borders from threats both foreign and domestic. Hey, I heard they even built some kind of fence to protect us. Muchas gracias idiotas...

                                            "FlySafe Technology"
                      ( brought to you by The American Cancer Society )

Why these dedicated public servants care enough about me to have devised and implemented a way to protect me, by bombarding me with backscatter X-rays,  and are even willing to carefully examine my "package" for explosives before allowing me to board an airplane, insuring that I'll land safely in Vegas with fully functioning reproductive organs.
(and under the complete illusion of security too). I trust them implicitly.... Anyway, privacy is highly overrated...

 Please don't be alarmed by the moisture currently condensing @ the bottom of your computer monitor, it's just the Sarcasm dripping off of the above paragraphs and shouldn't damage your equipment in any way...( but, if you wouldn't mind signing the Peabody EULA @ the bottom of the page relinquishing me of any responsibility,...  just in case, I'd appreciate it...Oh, and don't forget to enter your S.S. number and Mastercard information for our records, thanks...)

        "The Peabody Perspective" / Certified U.S. Cyber Command Secure