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Jim Liddle

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Why the Cloud may be another step towards less freedom

I did a combined honours degree in Computer Science and History and have always retained an interest in history, particulalry British, American, and religious history which was what I studied.  After all, to try and understand the present, one has to fully understand the past.  I believe this applies across all disciplines.  For example, if one looks at the current Middle East situation and the Iraq conflict, to truly try to get a handle on it (and I would not even dare to say “understand”) one has to go back to Gertrude Bell (Al-Khatun)  for she drew the lines which are still the international borders for that region today, and she understood the history , religious and tribal complexities I suspect far more than any of our politicians or diplomats do today.

Over 300 years ago Thomas Paine fought for the ‘Rights of Man‘.  One of the things that was done to “shut him up” was a piece of legislation issued by ‘royal proclamation’ in 1792 that enabled the government to prosecute authors who spoke out against it for seditious libel.  In our generation today, the European Court of Justice ruled that EU institutions have the right to suppress criticism that damages the institution’s image and reputation, the very same law used to muzzle Paine.  Also, remember this is a constitution which none of the British people have ever explicitly voted to be governed by. The way in which the treaty has been foisted on us and other countries is breathtaking. A ‘yes’ vote requires not confirmation and a ‘no’ vote simply means you ask the question again until you get a ‘yes’ !

That brings me to technology and the Cloud.  As a society, and I speak as a UK citizen here, we have a government who is obsessed with monitoring and snooping on all aspects of our life, so that they can tell us what to do and what not to do.  This premise infects all forms of their governement, to stopping friends minding each others children (I mean, come on, seriously…..), to fines or prison for putting your litter out early (sic), to fairly minority bodies having access to your telephone and SMS records (something that used to require a court order).

The reasons put forward by our government make the acts try to seem reasonable, “to prevent terrorism”, “to protect children on the internet”, “to make it easier to track criminals”, but the reality is that they are a slow degradation of our civil liberties, which, through history, have been fought for so hard, but which we seem to be giving away without a thought.  Labour fundamentally believe in the principles of government being involved in all policies, be it schools, NHS, or something as simple as child-minding. We, the people do not know what is “Best for us”.

If the government can force the ISP to give it access to records, we can presume as more and more of the data and services that we have locally and in our offices move to the Cloud then they will ensure that they have access to this also.  Do you really trust, or want the government to have access to this data, and do you trust they will be responsible with it or look after it ?  For a country that has a record deficit you can be sure they will be looking at all options of bringing money in and will have a “needs must” mentality. 

When you have your data locally, you have some governance over it.  You own it, you can encrypt it, stronger if you choose than can be done on public commercial services, and it becomes much less difficult for government bodies to police. This does not mean you have any data that is illegal in any way. Privacy should not be viewed as a crime or tarred with the “must have something to hide” brush.  You just may not fancy some secretary in some far flung council browsing your records on a whim.

I will leave the last word to Thomas Paine: ‘only when opinions are free, either in matters of government and religion, will truth finally prevail”.

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Jim is CEO of Storage Made Easy. Jim is a regular blogger at SYS-CON.com since 2004, covering mobile, Grid, and Cloud Computing Topics.