Coalition: Cloud computing raises privacy issues

Government standards for accessing data stored in cloud computing applications, in terrorist watch lists and shared among law enforcement and private entities all need to be reassessed and modified to reduce their risks of harming privacy, according to recommendations issued by the Constitution Project coalition of civil liberties and First Amendment organizations.

The report, titled “Liberty and Security: Recommendations for the Next Administration and Congress,” was issued Nov. 18 and suggests executive and legislative actions on immigration, national security, surveillance and privacy.

For example, it recommends that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 be updated to include privacy safeguards for new electronic services, including protections on distribution of location information for cell phones. Cell phone service providers routinely store information about the location of their customers; however, no there are no standards for releasing that information to police agencies, it said.

In addition, cloud computing, which allows for storage of photos, calendars, address books, and other personal and business information on remote computers, should be examined and privacy standards set, the report said.

Cloud computing raises new privacy issues that require clear standards for custodians of this information who receive government requests for access to it, the document added. "Currently, this information is on a weaker privacy footing than the same information when it resides in the user’s computer,” the report said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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