Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cloud reactions

There's an entertaining and mildly paranoid post by Paul Carr on TechCrunch, "Why I'm having second thoughts about the wisdom of the cloud." He likes to shake things up and when I re-visited his post today he'd had over 180 (mostly sympathetic) comments and 650+ Tweets, etc.

His article says that using cloud computing services to store emails, documents, photos, data and more is wildly convenient. But he's alarmed when he reads "this: the US government subpoenaing Twitter (and reportedly Gmail and Facebook) users over their support of Wikileaks..." He says he's even more concerned to discover that the US legal system means he probably wouldn't know if his information is obtained in this way.

We're living through a massive change in the way in which society communicates and organizes; the rules and practices change almost daily. Part of living in this brave new world means taking responsibility for how we use the technology and understanding the negative consequences to the risks we might take with our online content.
  • Sometimes, people find out the hard way: ‘Stacy Snyder was weeks away from getting her teaching degree when she said her career was derailed by an activity common among many young teachers: posting personal photos on a MySpace page.’ (ABC News 6 May 2008)
  • Careless Internet use might cost me some privacy and make life easier for anyone wanting to find out about me. (Try entering your own name, in "quote" marks, into Google and review the results.)
  • Every now and then Hollywood, or a book author, tries to help us work out ways in which even the innocent can become caught up on the wrong side of surveillance. For example, one of the movies I enjoy most is Enemy of the State.
But I have a much more simple concern: at the moment, I enjoy Gmail, Blogger and other services supposedly free of charge because I'm voluntarily supplying more and more information which allows commercial companies to sell advertising more precisely targeted to the profile they're building up of me. At the moment, that seems like a good trade-off, not least because I'd rather see ads that might be relevant than ones that I've got no interest in. My concern, though, lies in the fact that I can never review, tailor or remove that profile. And, yes, what happens if something I like that's legal and decent now becomes a social taboo in future?