Cloud vendors seek better online data protections

Lack of legal certainty may be keeping some enterprises from using cloud services, vendors tell Congressional committee

Executives from top cloud vendors Microsoft, Google, Amazon.com, Salesforce.com and Rackspace Thursday urged a congressional committee to support their goal of giving data stored in cloud computing systems the same legal protections as information stored on one's personal computer.

The lack of such protections today is a particularly important issue for enterprise customers, and is deterring some from using cloud services, the executives said.

To give lawmakers a sense of the scale of cloud-based system use, Google senior counsel Richard Salgado told the committee that there are 3 million business users of the company's cloud services today, and about 3,000 more sign up for them each day.

All face "inconsistent, confusing and uncertain" privacy laws that can be applied to data, he added.

For instance, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 allows the government to compel a service provider to disclose the contents of an e-mail older than 180 days "with nothing more than a subpoena," said Salgado. A search warrant, which unlike a supoena requires that investigators provide probable cause, is needed to turn over e-mails less than 180-days-old, he added.

Salgado said communications and documents stored online should be treated "as if they were stored at home," which would require that the government "get a search warrant before compelling a service provider to access and disclose the information" at any time.

The U.S. Senate is also looking at this issue.

Michael Hintze, associate general counsel at Microsoft, said that users of its Business Productivity Online Suite, which includes a document storage product, include companies that must protect highly confidential information, including trade secrets, business plans and customer lists.

"Enterprise users tell us that they are very concerned about the privacy implications for moving such sensitive data from local storage to remote storage," said Hintze. "A significant part of that concern relates to the circumstances under which the government can compel disclosure of data from third party providers," he added.

Similarly, David Schellhase, executive vice president and general counsel of Salesforce.com, said that its customers, especially those based outside the country, "want assurances that the U.S. government will not access their data without deliberate due process."

Opposition to changes in the law may come from law enforcement agencies.

Kurt Schmid, executive director of the Chicago High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a federal group that helps to coordinate drug control efforts among local state and federal law enforcement agencies, said law enforcement officials don't want to relinquish established legal thresholds.

"Subpoenas assist law enforcement to focus on investigative targets, frequently serving as a tool to eliminate innocent persons from being investigated, while serving to develop additional leads and evidence on the offender in question," said Schmid, in prepared remarks.

The hearing, held by the Judiciary Subcommittee of the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, drew the attention of U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), chairman of the full committee. He called the cloud data privacy issue important, and one that is "being undervalued by the committee."

Conyers, citing the severe damage that could be caused by cyberattacks, told the committee that privacy must be protected as much as possible "but at the same time there needs to be other issues that I hope you bring up."

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags IT industryamazon.comGoogleMicrosoftsecuritySalesforce.comcloud computinginternetprivacyrackspace

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Patrick Thibodeau

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?