Last week the European Commission's panel on privacy, commonly known as the Article 29 Working Party, provided long-awaited clarity (in the form of an "Opinion") on whether and how European governments and private enterprise can utilize cloud computing technology in their operations, including processing personal information and other protected data.
Cloud computing is a broad term that varies in context and has been subject to hype, but generally refers to technologies and service models allowing the sharing of on-demand scalable computer resources over the internet, including software programs, computer storage space and elastic computing power. Implementing IaaS systems has allowed companies and governments to significantly reduce capital expenditures by eliminating the need for purchase and maintenance of computer infrastructure equipment. Cloud services also allow for rapid remote deployment of software and network solutions. Additionally, cloud services enable organizations to decrease reliance on developing sophisticated in-house staff since major cloud providers have trained experts monitoring the computing environment.
But, because cloud computing leverages the internet and computing resources in geographically disparate locations, the technologies present serious privacy and data security risks. In addressing this fundamental concern the Opinion indicates that the principal risks are a potential lack of control over data and limited transparency into its processing. A cloud provider's infrastructure can seem opaque and lacking information ensuring the "availability, integrity, confidentiality, transparency, isolation, intervenability and portability of the data". Additionally, due to the collaborative nature of cloud computing, customers may not be aware of subcontractors in the supply chain handling their data. With due respect to the data security risk, many observers consider this to be the great triumph of cloud compuing - that is that is simply "works" without its users having to worry about the back-end.… Continue Reading