Help! The Cloud Ate My Homework!

Angry computer eating homework.

Source: Deviantart.com

 

Well, not really.

But the thought of the cloud eating my homework and the rest of my personal data does in fact scare me.

I’ve experimented with a few cloud based services in Dropbox, Box.net, and Evernote, and all three services have freed me from the constraints of traditional computing and allow me to access my data at all times.

That is the benefit of cloud based services – that you can be productive anywhere as long as you have access to the internet.

I have three mobile devices – a Blackberry, a netbook, and a laptop. My laptop is really a desktop (no battery) so it stays at home, and I use my netbook and Blackberry when I’m on campus. However, having two computers and a Blackberry means constantly shifting documents, videos, photos, and music between my two computers and smartphone.

It was getting incredibly annoying to continue shifting, so I decided I needed to upgrade either my Dropbox or Box.net account for more storage space. But as I was about to shell out that $9.99/month for 50GB worth of Dropbox storage, I stopped dead in my tracks.

What am I doing? I asked myself.

Up until that point, the question of online privacy had never reared its ugly head. Did I care about Facebook selling my personal data to advertisers?

Yes, but you wouldn’t know it from the fact that I still use Facebook everyday, and haven’t looked at nor changed my privacy settings in ages.

I couldn’t have cared less about my privacy when it came to using Facebook, Twitter, or Linkedin, but when I considered putting my most important and personal documents and files onto the web, I balked at the thought.

A 2009 blog post in the New York Times titled, “Does Cloud Computing Mean More Risks to Privacy?” seems more relevant to me now than it did two years ago. The post discusses how the concept of online privacy is virtually nonexistent – pretty much anything you put on the web can be accessed by anyone.

The government can subpoena your information easily, and the company which holds your data is not even legally required to notify you about it. Contrast this with keeping your data on your hard drive, where the government instead must obtain a warrant, which is a more scrutinized process.

How prescient this post was, given that just last month the U.S. government subpoenaed Twitter to obtain the personal data of Wikileaks journalists (although Twitter did notify the individuals).

And it’s funny to say this, but what really scared me most about the cloud was losing all of my music. What if I kept all my music in the cloud? Could the Department of Homeland Security seize my files if they thought I was downloading music illegally?

They’re already doing it.

So I have yet to fully make the jump to cloud computing and bring all my documents and files online with me. Currently, I only use the cloud for schoolwork, so I don’t have too much sensitive information online.

But when I graduate and eventually start life in the real world, the question of “who really owns my data?” becomes more and more pressing, and I will need to make the choice between the ability to access my data at all times but giving up control, and keeping my data at home but maintaining true ownership.

What will you choose to do? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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About Ssunmonu

Sam Sunmonu is a Duke University Senior majoring in History with a minor in Political Science. He is interested in the marketing industry with a strong online tilt. You can catch him blogging at Sam Sunmonu's Blog, or follow him @NewInfluential. View all posts by Ssunmonu

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