Thursday, September 11, 2008

What Laws Should Govern Computing Clouds?


Google this Friday will host for lobbyists, congressional aides and journalists in the Washington D.C. area a talk about cloud computing at which it will release a new Pew Internet and American Life survey of consumer attitudes toward the cloud. Google has obviously launched these D.C.-area talks as a way to help educate regulators and lawmakers about white spaces, online privacy and other topics near and dear to its interests.

Still, I am curious to hear what the Pew survey says consumers think of the cloud. I would have guessed they don’t think much about it all, unless it’s bringing rain. I’m also curious as to what Google thinks regulators should focus on when it comes to running pools of virtualized servers. Bandwidth improvements and ensuring Network Neutrality are one obvious issue for cloud purveyors, other regulation that should be talked about is how laws and regulations govern the physical location of certain data. Indeed, one interesting side note to Google’s patent for running data centers on the high seas is the lack of jurisdiction in international waters.

On the consumer side, a fair issue to consider is how consumer content stored in such clouds can be used. Witness the kerfuffle over Google’s terms of service regarding Chrome, which tried to claim the right to use  any content uploaded or displayed via the browser. But when storing files and data in a cloud, ownership and usage rights are essential, as are clear policies that lay out how such content might be accessed, tracked and monitored. Another issue is whether or not such data could ever truly be deleted from clouds, as former Facebook users had discovered. Not all of these issues require regulation, but it’s worth educating lawmakers about them in advance of more services being offered via the cloud.

image courtesy of Google

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