Data Disclosure in the Public Cloud

Posted 11.1.11 by

Do you know who has control of your data? Take precaution when you decide to put your data on the public cloud hosted by Google or Amazon. A recent Wall Street Journal article reports statistics from Google’s Transparency Report, a new effort to disclose a limited amount of information regarding government requests for user data and requests for content removal.

According to the report, U.S. government requests for Google user and account data rose 29 percent when comparing the first six months of 2011 to the previous six months. A total of 5,950 user data requests from January to June 2011 affected 11,057 individual users and accounts. In addition, requests to remove content from Google products increased 70 percent – and in response, Google complied with 63 percent of those requests.

Data Disclosure in the Public Cloud

Data Disclosure in the Public Cloud

This raises the question of who has the ability to access, or grant access to your data hosted in a public cloud environment. Can the government simply call up Google or Amazon, submit a request for information and receive your data, whether confidential or not?

The Wikileaks incident back in December 2010 is a good example of government influence on hosting providers. The prolific theft and dissemination of classified cables detailing confidential government activities brought attention not only to the data, but the data host – Amazon EC2 servers. The official Amazon statement claims they kicked Wikileaks off of their servers due to a violation of terms of service, citing the fact that Wikileaks did not own or control rights to their information hosted on the cloud. Yet the question remains, would Amazon have shut them down if there wasn’t strong government opposition?

Trusting your critical business data and applications to the public cloud requires a public cloud provider to uphold certain service terms when it comes to granting access to your data. In a shared environment, do you really know where your data lives and who controls it? And is it worth taking the risk in order to take advantage of a utility pricing model?

Google Reports Surge in Government Requests for User Data
Google Transparency Report: Content Removal Requests

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