I promised two posts ago in response to two articles in the July 2013 issue of the ATA (American Translators Association) Chronicle to supply my own take on the issue of cloud storage as upon reading an article entitled “Taking Advantage of the Cloud” by Arianna Aguilar in the same journal, I thought that very important issues relating to this topic were barely mentioned. Unfortunately, I cannot link to this article as it is not available on the Internet.
In all fairness to Ms. Aguilar, she must have submitted her article well before the latest explosive revelations by Thomas Snowden that Invisible People, also known as NSA (National Security Agency), are in flagrant violation of the law, in particular the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution, spying on everybody and their grandmother and her dog – to protect us from terrorists, of course, because this is obviously the best way to catch them. The revelations are only a few weeks old and I happen to know that it takes more than three months before a submitted article is published in the ATA Chronicle because I wrote a few of them for this esteemed journal myself.
But still, I think that she might have said a little more about the issue of security.
Here is what she says about the disadvantages of cloud storage, which take up all of about 15% of the space in her article, while the remaining 85% are advantages: …. “Another disadvantage is the confidentiality of your data. This is why it is important to read the company’s confidentiality policy before agreeing to sign up for its cloud service, since you are basically surrendering all of our information to a third party. Make sure you understand how they will use and store you information, although in most cloud applications, you can actually control how and who sees your data. However, be advised that some clients may not be open to allowing their information to be in the cloud due to confidentiality issues”.
The problem is, company’s confidentiality policy means absolutely nothing …. if the company is lying to us. And the truth is, most companies in this day and age will think nothing of lying to their customers as long as they can they away with it, which they almost always can, because few people dare to tell the truth when whistleblowers are viciously persecuted and prosecuted. Even if a company is telling us the truth, since Invisible People simply grab every piece of information stored on the Internet, how do we know where this information may end up when we have no control over the information once it is stored in cloud?
As I am a patent translator, some of the information that I deal with is not very secret because every published patent application is in public domain (one feature of the patent system is that it is important to make the information about new patents easily accessible to as many people as possible).
But I also frequently translate new patent applications from Japanese, German, and French that have not been published yet in English, and this information is proprietary and very sensitive, and some of the non-patent information that I translate is used by law firms for all kinds of purposes, including ongoing lawsuits. With this kind of information, I am often asked to delete the files that that I have been working on and to destroy all printouts as soon as the translations have been delivered. And I don’t mind doing so at all: if a client wants even a minor change, this way I can charge them full price for a completely new job.
I think it is foolish to store files in cloud. After all, it is not just angels who live in clouds. As I already said, we don’t know who are the creatures who have access to information stored in the cloud and what is being done with it as we have absolutely no control over this information.
I frankly don’t even understand why would anybody want to trade control over information for the “convenience” of cloud storage. Storage has become very cheap over time and it takes me only a few minutes to transfer 10 years worth of files onto a new computer every time when I junk an old one because my files are mostly word processed files and some PDF and graphic files. I can easily store everything I need on a couple of computer hard drives. And while of course the information on my computers could be hacked, somebody would first need to target my data as something that is worth stealing. It could certainly happen, but it is not very likely, and unlike with data that is stored in the cloud on the Internet, I can take precautions with data that is under my control.
But if your all-important files and applications are stored on the Internet, you are simply asking for trouble. As Richard Stallman warns in this article, cloud computing is a trap designed to force people to buy into locked, proprietary systems that will cost more and more over time. Just because something is free or very cheap today does not mean that it will be free or cheap tomorrow. Once a company determines that it has reached a near monopoly in the market, it will start jacking up the prices, shamelessly and ruthlessly, as evidenced by the current pricing of Microsoft Office 2013 (100 hundred dollars per 1 computer per 1 year) discussed in this post.
All things considered, ease of access to our e-mail, applications and data is a two edged sword as we don’t know who else besides us can easily access all of this data, and the sword could easily fall on our head when we least expect it.
It is better not to put your head directly under the sword.