The EFF spends a good deal of time advocating for Internet users' privacy rights and educating people about modern threats to their privacy. Do you see consumer behavior changing as cloud computing becomes more popular, or do you only see a larger threat to individual privacy?
Unfortunately, consumers tend to only care about privacy issues after they have their privacy violated. When it happens distantly to somebody else, people don't put a lot of energy into it. Education helps, but only so much. I believe that people architecting systems must realize that they are writing policy when they do this, and they should think if they are creating the policies and practices they really want. Both for themselves and for people who will use the code and its successors in other countries like China or Saudi Arabia.
Many startups are using cloud computing resources as a way to bootstrap their business. In your opinion, what effect does it have on consumers' right to privacy if the company they're doing business with may not have any real control or influence over what happens to their data? Does cloud computing become uber-evil if I start my business in the cloud, sign you up as a customer, and never consider my legal obligations regarding a third-party that has access to your data?
This is a big risk. It's happened many times that companies have gotten lots of your data and then sold to another company with different motives. Or just gotten poor and ready to throw principles out the window to stay afloat.
Companies have always collected data about us, of course, and it has been subject to this risk. Cloud computing, however, starts moving all of your personal data out of your house and into the hands of third parties. This shifts the balance and shifts it a lot. It's something we should realize we're doing even if we decide in the end we like the advantages so much (roaming, scaling) that we are going to do it. Let's not do it blind.
I recently wrote to President Obama and proposed the creation of a national computing cloud focused on fostering research and development innovation at smaller colleges. What are your thoughts on this proposal?
That sounds more like just renting computing by the hour. The only big issue with that is this: If you are holding data for other people (such as your users), now this data is out somewhere else, under not just your control, but this other hosting company's control. Your ex-husband's divorce lawyer now has three places to try to get it, not just two or, more ideally, just one -- you.