Public value privacy despite cloud advantage - Shroff

Privacy commissioner surveys public and private-sector organisations on their experience of cloud

Citizens with a concern about privacy and unwilling to trade it off against access to international services from the likes of Google or Facebook are a growing section of the public, says Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff.

Earlier this year the Commissioner's office launched a survey of public and private-sector organisations to gather information on their experience of cloud use and the policies they have governing cloud processing, and other ways they share information with overseas organisations.

The survey asked about protection of data on the overseas infrastructure and in transit, whether the respondent company knows the location of the server(s) holding its data and whether it can specify where data should or should not be held. The survey also dealt with policies, if any, for informing customers some of their data may be held offshore.

The survey originally had a response deadline of March 7, but this was extended to March 21 because some respondents were affected by the Christchurch earthquake, survey coordinator Tim Henwood says.

About 50 responses have been received, most from the public sector, but enough private companies have responded to constitute a valid sample, he says. Results of the survey are planned to be available for a launch during Privacy Week, May 1 to May 7.

Computerworld suggested that many people see some sacrifice of privacy as a reasonable trade-off for lower-priced computer power or applications for business use or, in the case of individuals, rapid communication with and information about their peers through such forums as Twitter and Facebook.

Shroff replied in her experience there are not many with that attitude and following high- profile controversies involving Google and Facebook, people with more sensitivity to their privacy may well be in the majority.

"My position [on cloud privacy risks] is not yet 100 percent clear," Shroff says. "What I want to do is talk to you [computer professionals] and hear what your views are as we [the Commissioner's office] develop our position."

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