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Can the cloud enable an Orwellian nightmare?

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In a not so distant future, almost every object will be traceable and every piece of machinery will be instrumented with event recorders. All these devices will be interconnected constituting an Internet of Things, sharing data from their actions all the time, thus generating unbelievable amounts of data that will allow us to make intelligent decisions to respond quickly and accurately to current challenges and future events.

Wow, sounds like a smarter planet!

But let’s face it, it also sounds a little bit like the world described by George Orwell in his famous novel 1984, where everything you say, every move you make and every decision is being watched and analyzed to help an authoritarian state to better control any aspect of your life.

There is no surprise that security concerns are at the top on the list of cloud adoption inhibitors. Legitimate security concerns in some nations prevent governmental agencies, as well as companies in healthcare and financial industries, from using cloud based services hosted in foreign countries, fearing local agencies there may force service providers to grant them access to their data, potentially disclosing sensible information.

Should we stop using cloud services fearing our own information will be used against us? I say NO. Instead we should invest our efforts in making sure these services are safe to use, for they are, in contrast, helping us to make this world a safer place.

Information availability and the various social networks’ ability to spread ideas have proved to be of great value for people to ensure their voice is heard and their rights respected. Analytics on cloud data is also helping security agencies better fight delinquency by exposing links between entities related to organized crime.

In order for cloud services to keep being helpful tools instead of risks there are some precautions we should take:

  • Threat protection: any service in the cloud is by nature prone to attacks, so it’s a good idea to think about security concerns since the design phase. Take a look at the IBM Security Framework to learn about people, data, applications, infrastructure and analytics considerations you should take in order to design a secure cloud service.
  • Proper use: Since cloud services achieve their potential only when interconnected with others alike, it make sense that decisions about what external services your own service will use are taken with the very same attention you put in when you use cloud services to link with other people or companies. You don’t click on suspicious ads, so, why would you use in your web store the checkout service from creepypayprocessing.com?
  • Careful design: Besides the design of individual services, as members of the cloud community, we should promote the development of standards, rules and even related public policies that help prevent privacy violation and information misuse.

How do you think we can make the most out of cloud services? Let’s keep the conversation going.

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