Last weekend, sipping on a lovely Hunter Shiraz, as I enjoyed a lazy lunch amidst the picturesque rural setting I experienced one of those blissful moments where the concerns of work are the farthest thing from your mind. Until two people down the other end of the table began discussing cloud computing, and just like that, the privacy geek part of my brain was tuned back in.
References to cloud computing are popping up everywhere: in magazines, newspapers, blogs, journals, and on the radio. What has really caught my attention though is how often the issues surrounding privacy and security are mentioned in the same breath. The connection is being made by all sorts of commentators, which is really exciting. I'd grown accustomed these types of conversations only being of interest to privacy or security experts.
Cloud computing is definitely the new black, and it looks like it is going to drag privacy into fashion with it.
Surprising as the new found public interest is, it really shouldn't be. Privacy and security issues affect us all, so we should all care about them. But it hasn't always been this way.
Was privacy the word on everybody's lips when social networking first took off? No. Was privacy the worry when call centres started moving off shore? No. Was privacy an inhibitor to the uptake of mobile phones? No. Was the popularity of GPS technology dampened by the associated privay issues? No. In all these instances we privacy geeks prattled on about it, only to finally get the public's attention after things started to go horribly wrong.
So what's different this time? Is it something about cloud computing? Or are people finally learning? The answer is probably a combination of both.
Consumers will continue to raise the bar on what we expect when it comes to our protecting our privacy.
In order to realise the huge potential and benefits of cloud computing, organisations and individuals must be prepared to relinquish a lot more direct control over much of our business and personal information. The information might be located anywhere in the world, will be housed in servers under someone else's control and possibly with information from a whole range of other sources. If providers don't get the privacy settings right they won't get our business.
A huge leap of trust is required.
The problem is not insoluble, but it is a tricky one. People are now savvy enough to have some idea of the risks, but without being a cloud computing expert it is difficult to understand where information is held, who is looking after it, and what control we have.
A clue to the solution can be found if we start to ask ourselves such questions as "why are people willing to drive a car"? When you think about it it's one of the most dangerous things imaginable. But driving is really convenient, and thanks to a powerful combination of laws, standards, road rules and social customs, we feel the risk is sufficiently mitigated by the benefit.
What we can be sure about is that strategies for achieving trust we will need to be as innovative and dynamic as cloud computing itself.