The cloud computing security farce
I was impressed and disappointed with Background Briefing's coverage of Cloud Computing on ABC Radio National.
Impressed because they were actually covering something technologically relevant to the layperson, but disappointed because they got distracted by the security and privacy issues around it.
They succumbed to the hype in the first 5 minutes (Chrome as an operating system? Lay off the crack pipe), but by about the 20 minute mark they actually started speaking to people who were reasonable and had a clue. By the end of the program they'd devolved to thinly veiled Google bashing ("Google is making us dumber!").
It's interesting to see the traditional media covering this whole "cloud computing" thing. I think a large part of it is generational perspective.
The way the internet is merging with the "real world" is unlike any other technological or sociological development throughout human history, and the younger generations are at the forefront of adoption.
Younger generations are publishing more and more of their lives online and are incredibly open with huge amounts of their personal information. They're willing to trade their data privacy in exchange for being part of an open & online society.
To older generations, this must be quite a scary thing. Personal data is something that should be kept under lock and key, away from the prying eyes of the world, because some hacker on the other side of the world is going to steal it.
My dad for a long time was very skeptical of internet banking ("there are hackers out there!"), and it's only after years of debate that he's finally beginning to look at it seriously.
Now to someone like me (of a younger generation), dealing with a bank online doesn't cause me to bat an eyelid. That one-on-one interaction with a bank doesn't really rate a mention in comparison to publishing my personal information on Facebook or LinkedIn for millions to see.
Storing my mail with Gmail sits at a median point between Facebook and online banking, though it's definitely more on the online banking end of the scale.
Yes, someone else "owns" my mail. And yes, they are probably mining it for data.
I'm willing to balance the risk of Google doing something evil against having a life that revolves around having five nines uptime on my boxes.
I could store the mail myself if I wanted to. I still control the DNS for my domains, and all of my mail relays through a mail server I control before going to Google.
And quite honestly, you should be more concerned about how your government is monitoring you. Most sizable ISPs have government black boxes that capture network traffic anyway, and there are numerous points in any chain of communication where they're snooping on you.
Governments will always try and get their sticky fingers into all communication mediums. Not taking an active position on interception and monitoring can lead to a circumvention of power.
Terrorism, like Communism before it, is the latest in the long line of justifications for governments to know what their citizens are up to, and it conveniently coincided with the latest technology boom. Can you imagine any government being granted the snooping powers they have today if the semi-faux threat of terrorism didn't exist?
Yes, having that data at a Google data center makes it marginally easier for my government to grab it, but they could just as easily:
* storm my ISP and take their mail servers * storm my data center and take my box * raid my house and take my computer * find some legal loophole to detain me indefinitely until I give them all my usernames and passwords
But to older generations, the idea of a storing large gobs of personal data on some company's servers must be terrifying. The thing is, they're already doing it. Where do you think your email is hosted, guys?
If you're using the internet your government is probably snooping on you. Moving data from your ISP to "the cloud" isn't going to change their snooping effectiveness.