Transparent privacy policy gets clouded

Kathleen Brooks
GOOGLE has got itself in hot water in recent days because of a data protection slip up with its new social network, Buzz. Users were able to see other members’ email addresses – and the addresses of their “followers”– without notification or the need to grant people access to this information. The company is now facing a lawsuit in the US and questions are being asked about its privacy policy.

This has ignited the debate about data protection on the internet and whether it is a truly safe space to store information. The launch of cloud computing by Google, Amazon and Microsoft, along with other companies, has revolutionised how businesses can manage their data. Instead of having to buy expensive hardware and software, they can use the cloud, and borrow server space via the Internet at a fraction of the cost.

But, a privacy breach could do irreparable damage to a business. If you were a solicitor, would you want your clients list making its way into the public domain? The answer is obviously not.

But, for start-up businesses that rely on the cloud and do not have the resources to buy and manage their own servers, what can they do to ensure their data is secure? Peter Allwood a manager at consultancy Deloitte, says that small and medium sized businesses need to read the small print when they sign up to cloud services: “Businesses need to be aware of how the cloud provider intends to use their data. For example will they have 24/7 access to it, and does the provider intend to use their data for marketing purposes.”

Allwood recommends contacting the provider if you are not happy with how your information will be stored, and drawing up a contract with it. Small businesses should not be daunted to do this as it’s in the provider’s interest to offer a robust service to their customers.

Google has already taken action to repair the issue with Buzz, and reiterated that its chief priority is to keep data that is passed between its services private. Allwood does not expect people to ditch cloud computing as a result of this, however it highlights the importance of ensuring data is kept private at all times.

It’s not going to be the end for cloud computing, but businesses need to be aware that privacy lapses can occur.