Cloud 'exacerbates' privacy issues: EFA

Education key to preventing leak of personal data

Educating the enterprise about the privacy risks of using the cloud is vital, Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) has warned.

Speaking at iapp’s privacy umbrella of cloud computing conference in Sydney, EFA’s chairman, Colin Jacobs, said the increased use of virtualised environments creates a new set of privacy risks for the enterprise.

“Privacy is getting bigger and bigger as an issue and is coming up on our radar screen,” Jacobs said. “The legalities and regulations are complicated...but one thing is certainly clear, in that people value their privacy.”

Jacobs said that the EFA community, a non-profit national organisation representing internet users, had an increase of privacy concerns brought to its attention due to cloud computing and the increase of information that enterprise is putting into these sites.

“The cloud exacerbates these issues as people migrate more and more of their lives into it,” he said. “Digital reputation is something we hear a lot more about and it affects people’s’s a deep human need that’s not going away anytime soon.”

With the EFA recently giving testimony to a Senate inquiry into privacy, Jacobs said IT managers must take a number of issues into account before engaging with an external cloud provider.

“What if the service you’re using merges with another company or goes bankrupt?” he said. “...What if your business has information that has information relevant to your competitor?”

One trend that Jacobs said could pose a risk to enterprise was the growing appeal of Google Apps, with attacks like the one that resulted in Chinese cyber attackers hacking into Google last year, often causing personal data to be leaked.

Jacobs used the example of the University of Melbourne outsourcing its email services to Google as one that could create such a privacy breach.

“I’m told, upon investigating, that the University of Melbourne have done their homework,” he said. “But...the users, many of them are uneasy about it, and one could say there would be value in the data of the students.”

While data breaches in the cloud are something that organisations should be wary of, Jacobs said the government shouldn’t create regulations around specific cloud threats.

“We’ve spoken to government and they want to know what they can do [to prevent privacy breaches] as well,” Jacobs said. “...If regulations specifically control what can be done, how is it accessed and so on, it’s likely to be obsolete in the next few years.”

Jacobs’ insights into cloud computing come as the Australian Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, said cloud computing has the potential to enhance privacy.

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