The government is driving some people away from the cloud

Legal subpoenas to cloud providers serve as reminders that you lose control and even awareness of who can access your data

Paul Carr from TechCrunch did a good job making the case why some of us may want to reconsider blanket uses for the cloud: "I've been growing increasingly alarmed by stories such as the U.S. government subpoenaing Twitter (and reportedly Gmail and Facebook) users over their support of WikiLeaks. The casual use of subpoenas, including against foreign citizens is worrying enough -- the New York Times says more than 50,000 'national security letters' are sent each year -- but even more concerning is the fact that often these subpoenas are sealed, preventing the companies from notifying the users they affect."

In other words, you're putting your personal data on a cloud provider, and the government can go directly to it for that data, bypassing you altogether. While you might think your cloud provider would stand up to such requests, most are legally bound to hand over the information.

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As the whole notion of the cloud is to turn over your calendars, emails, documents, and business data to somebody you don't control, you have to understand the accompanying risk. Thus, many organizations are moving back to client-based email, calendaring, and document storage, understanding that at least the subpoena will come to them, and not their cloud provider.

As the argument goes, if you don't have anything to hide, then you should not be worried. I don't think anyone scared away from the cloud by the recent events are criminals -- they're people who'd rather not have their personal or corporate information accessed without their knowledge and permission. It's all about who has ultimate control.

The cloud will continue to be a trade-off. If you use a cloud service, you give up control for efficiency. The authorities will get what they need, when they need it, and from whomever has it.

That said, the likelihood of your being a target of this type of legal action is pretty small if you're operating within the law and/or don't tee off somebody who may want to sue you. I would not recommend that anyone retreat on cloud computing for that reason alone. However, it does make you think.

This article, "The government is driving some people away from the cloud," originally appeared at Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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