Trusting the Cloud: The F.T.C. and Google

The trust issue will not go away.

In a bit of a publicity stunt, the Electronic Privacy Information Center asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Google’s Cloud Computing Services, specifically concerning:

a. the adequacy of Google’s privacy and security safeguards regarding storage of personal information on its Cloud Computing Services; and

b. the sufficiency of Google’s privacy and security safeguards in light of the company’s assurances to consumers regarding its Cloud Computing Services.

The official document filed with the F.T.C. states:

This complaint concerns privacy and security risks associated with the provision of “Cloud Computing Services” by Google, Inc. to American consumers, businesses, and federal agencies of the United States government. Recent reports indicate that Google does not adequately safeguard the confidential information that it obtains. Given the previous opinions of the Federal Trade Commission regarding the obligation of service providers to ensure security, EPIC hereby petitions the Federal Trade Commission to open an investigation into Google’s Cloud Computing Services, to determine the adequacy of the privacy and security safeguards, to assess the representations made by the firm regarding these services, to determine whether the firm has engaged in unfair and/or deceptive trade practices, and to take any such measures as are necessary, including to enjoin Google from offering such services until safeguards are verifiably established. Such action by the Commission is necessary to ensure the safety and security of information submitted to Google by American consumers, American businesses, and American federal agencies.

P.R. stunts aside, where do we go from here?

Clearly, encryption, effective data anonymization, and mobile location privacy are “must-haves” in the cloud. Hosting providers who deal with this issue will keep their customers’ trust. And as I mentioned earlier, part of being a trusted service provider includes a commitment to how you will serve the customer, and positioning your business for success in your offerings. It means a robust offering, with appropriate availability, backup, and of course, security.

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