Privacy abuses could kill cloud storage

Employers are being rebuffed for demanding access to cloud-stored personal data, but over time, all your online info could be targeted

Did you hear? Some employers are asking for your Facebook and Twitter passwords before they offer you employment. This issue caused so much of a stir that Maryland passed legislation to ban employers from such requests. I suspect the employers with these ambitions will have to go back to drug tests, blind reference checks, and background investigations to vet their candidates.

What does this have to do with cloud computing? The rise of personal clouds -- such as iCloud, Mozy, Carbonite, Box, Dropbox, Google Apps, Microsoft SkyDrive, and other cheap or free ways to store our personal data outside of our homes -- could make us vulnerable to requests or demands for access.

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Instead of an employer going through messages to reveal what your high school classmates say about you, it could seek your tax returns for years 2000 through 2010 or, perhaps, those college photos you've been meaning to delete. We signed up with a personal cloud to provide synchronization and sharing among our computers and mobile devices. But in doing so, are we increasing the chances others will demand access to that information? Should we stop using the cloud for our personal data?

The use of personal clouds has already taken hold, providing much-needed productivity gains and protection from data loss. If people are driven away from cloud services due to corporate and government overreach, we all lose. That's why it's essential for lawmakers to ban these practices. Fortunately, most employers understand that such practices will shine a less than flattering light on their business -- but they're not the ones we need protection from.

If or when lawmakers act, you can help resist this trend: Don't work for a company that invades its employees' privacy, either at time of hire or during employment. That way, businesses on this invasive path will find qualified employees are hard to come by, cloud or no cloud.

This article, "Privacy abuses could kill cloud storage," originally appeared at Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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