Last updated: June 7, 2011 - 7:55am
[Commentary] The cloud capitalists – Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon – present themselves as the next step of the networked world.
Cloud computing allows our data to be stored remotely so it is always there to be accessed from any device we like. For consumers juggling a mass of data on an array of devices, this offers a benign mix of reliability and flexibility. Business should benefit too. The smallest start-up may be able to create an IT infrastructure from sales to manufacture in a few clicks.
So what’s not to like? Some of the misgivings about the cloud, in particular over security, are misplaced. A well-managed cloud will be more secure than a personal computer armed with a password closely resembling the name of the user’s spouse. The big issues will be about ownership and control, for example who owns the particles in the cloud: witness the furore over whether Facebook owns pictures posted by its members. More worrying, commercial providers of cloud services will have strong incentives to manage their users to maximize revenues and to discourage them from roaming from one cloud to another. You may well be confined to your Apple zone and discouraged from straying. The open web encourages people to share, mix and match software and content. The cloud will be more controlled, like Apple’s app store. Cloud services will always be looking over our shoulder, analyzing our habits, nudging us in one direction or another. The intimacy will get us more personalized services. But we will find ourselves increasingly dependent on services that will shape our behavior: think of Facebook’s clumsy definition and management of social relationships writ large. The interests of consumers and cloud capitalists will not always be as one. While almost all our culture will become digital and more of it will be available to more people than ever before, the cloud capitalists will have more pervasive power than even the likes of Rupert Murdoch.
To avoid that trap we need the digital equivalent of the classification of cloud types created by Luke Howard, an amateur meteorologist, in 1803. His scheme of cirrus, stratus and cumulus created 52 main varieties of clouds. We should seek diversity in the kinds of digital clouds we have, public and private, large and small, fleeting and permanent.
- Harris Pushes Mobile App Privacy
- Global Internet boom benefits valley companies
- A Trail of Clicks, Culminating in Conflict
- Apple vs. Google vs. Facebook vs. Amazon
- Consumers now trust Microsoft more than Apple with their privacy
- The Deciders: Facebook, Google, and the Future of Privacy and Free Speech
- In the Grip of the New Monopolists
- Recap: Consumer Privacy and Protection in the Mobile Marketplace
- New kids' online privacy rules give pass to Apple, Google, Facebook
- The Great Tech War Of 2012
- No data-mining on kids
- Facebook, Apple, and Twitter sued for privacy-invading mobile apps
- Apple, Facebook, Microsoft to start app privacy initiative
- Web giants' consumer privacy strategy faces hard sell
- This is, hands down, the scariest part of the NSA revelations