Ars Technica is reporting on a recent Pew study on cloud computing and privacy, specifically concerning remote data storage and the kind of data-mining performed on it by providers like Google, indicates that while consumers are concerned about the privacy of their data in the cloud, they still subject themselves to what many consider to be an invasion of privacy and misuse of data.

start_quote_rb 68 percent of respondents who said they'd used cloud services declared that they would be "very" concerned, and another 19 percent at least "somewhat" concerned, if their personal data were analyzed to provide targeted advertising.  This, of course, is precisely what many Web mail services, such as Google's own Gmail, do—which implies that at least some of those who profess to be "very" concerned about the practice are probably nevertheless subjecting themselves to it.

One wonders why those who profess to be very concerned about privacy and data-mining tactics used by cloudware providers would continue to use those services?

One answer might lie in the confusing legalese of the EULA (end user license agreement) presented by corporations.

      Where's F5?


It's necessary, of course, that the EULA be written using the language of the courts under which it will be enforced. But there are two problems with EULAs: first, they aren't really required to be read and second, even if they were really required to be read, they can't be easily understood by the vast majority of consumers.

I'll be the first to admit I rarely read EULAs. They're long, filled with legalese speak, and they always come down to the same basic set of rules: it's our software, we don't make any guarantees, and oh, yeah, any rights not specifically listed (like the use of the data you use with our "stuff") are reserved for us. It's that last line that's the killer, by the way because just about everything falls under that particular clause in the EULA.

Caveat emptor truly applies in the world of cloudware and online services. Buyer beware! You may be agreeing to all sorts of things you didn't intend.

The argument against such privacy and security assurances for consumers is that they aren't paying for the service, therefore the provider needs some way to generate revenue to continue providing the service. That revenue is often generated by advertising and partnerships, but it's also largely provided by selling off personal information either directly gleaned from users or mined from their data. Which is what Google does with GMail.

Enterprises, at least, are not only aware of but thoroughly understand the ramifications of storing their data "in the cloud". SaaS (Software as a Service) has had to provide proof positive that the data stored in their systems are the property of the consumer, that the data is not being used for data-mining or sharing purposes, and that security is in place to protect it from theft/viewing/etc...

no_free_lunchBut in between the consumer and the enterprise markets lies the SMB, the small-medium business. Not quite financially able to afford a full data center and IT staff of their own, they often take advantage of cloudware services as a stop-gap measure. But in doing so, they put their business and data at risk, because they aren't necessarily using cloudware designed with businesses in mind, at least not from a data security perspective, and that means they are often falling under the more liberal end-user license agreement. All bets are off on the sanctity of their data.

TANSTAAFL. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch, people, and that has never rang as true as it does in the world of cloudware and online services. If it's heralded as "free" that only means you aren't paying money for it, but you are bartering for the service; exchanging your personal information and data for the privilege of using that online service.

In many cases folks weigh the value they receive from the "free" service against divulging personal information and data and make an informed choice to exchange that information for the service. When that's the case - the consumer or business is making an informed choice - it's all good. Everybody wins. 

Bartering is, after all, the oldest form of exchanging goods or services. And it's still used today. My grandmother paid her doctor three chickens for delivering my father, and that was in the mid 1900s, not that long ago at all. So exchanging personal information and access to your data for services is completely acceptable; just make sure you understand that's what you're doing - especially if you're a business.

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