Who “owns” our stuff in the cloud?

Week 4 of my class on Cloud Computing covered current cloud technologies.  As I was researching and reading about these technologies, the issue of security came up (as I am sure it will for all things cloud related for the duration of the course).  At the same time, on my Facebook wall I kept seeing people post this statement informing Facebook that they do not have permission to share or sell their photos, information, etc.  These posts seem to stem from a hoax article that has been going around stating that every must post this disclaimer or Facebook will take all your stuff and use it how they want.

This begs the question, who “owns” the data we store in the cloud?  When we save our information in the cloud, it’s no longer stored on our local equipment.  We have moved it into the hands of the cloud provider who is storing it and managing it.  Most (hopefully ALL) cloud providers have a Terms of Service statement/agreement that lays out exactly what they can and cannot do with your information.  And it’s a good practice to read this agreement and know exactly how they may or may not use your information before you start uploading sensitive data and personal photos to their servers.

I came across an article by Brad Linder (http://liliputing.com/2011/07/dropbox-cloud-storage-and-who-owns-your-files.html) that talks a little more in-depth about this issue.  His article explains that most providers are not claiming ownership over your stuff.  They are, however, explaining in their terms of service that they may share it (if you post a photo on flickr, you may also have it linked to share on facebook, etc.).  The bottom line is that when you store your files, music, photos, etc. with a cloud provider you ARE giving up some of the control.  And as the article states, if you want to maintain COMPLETE control over your data – you may want to keep it stored on a local hard drive.  The downside to this complete control scenario is that you will not be able to benefit from the cloud and all it has to offer.

What are your thoughts on this issue?  I know for me, being a bit of a control freak, it was difficult for me to transition to the cloud.  But, I did it.  I’m ok with it, and if I have something that is really private that I don’t want there to be a chance of anyone getting a hold of – I probably will keep it stored on a local hard drive and secured in my physical presence.  At least until the cloud offers me a fort knox solution that meets the needs of the control freak inside of me.

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