Protection of consumer data in the cloud features highly in the Australian Computer Society’s (ACS’s) call for submissions on the federal government-backed Consumer Cloud Protocol (CCP).
That protocol grew out of the government’s May 29 launch of its National Cloud Computing strategy, and has been tasked to the ACS for management. The key goal of the CCP, according to the ACS, is “to encourage greater take-up of cloud services…by ensuring potential users of cloud services are well informed on issues such as privacy, data security, data ownership and other matters that need to be considered when choosing a cloud provider.”
Once complete, the ACS-backed protocol will be promoted to cloud providers, who will be encouraged to sign up to show their support for and adherence to its principles. The protocol is expected to be complete by year’s end.
The release of an ACS discussion paper will prompt discussions around the proposed protocol.
That paper focuses on potential reasons why cloud computing takeup is lagging, noting that a lack of cloud uptake so far suggests ongoing “concerns around issues such as privacy and security” amongst consumers and small businesses. These are best addressed through education and a self-regulatory industry regime that provides consumers “with clear and straightforward guidance on what to expect” from cloud providers.
“The ACS view is that any cloud protocol for Australia must avoid further regulatory complexity, jurisdictional variation, anti-competitive outcomes and overly prescriptive disclosure requirements,” the paper’s authors write, adding that a range of existing protections already provide adequate security controls and guidelines.
“Domestic protections for consumers are readily available and explicable,” the paper says, while noting the grey areas when these protections are applied to overseas-hosted cloud services. “Consumers need to understand that redress is still available under Australian legislation against cloud providers operating in Australia even if those providers do not have data centres on Australian soil.”
Amongst the recommended code provisions are guidelines requiring cloud providers to publish details of their corporate identity; explicitly spell out the ownership of uploaded data; indicate which security protocols they follow or are accredited to; tell customers in which country their data is being hosted; clarify methods for accessing stored data during and after the delivery of a service; explain the backup procedures in place to protect customer data; and spell out options for service level agreements and support.
Other provisions address areas such as vendor lock-in and exit strategies; provisions for data portability and understanding of data formats in use; clarification of data-breach and business continuity procedures; and explanation of the circumstances under which the cloud provider will make customer data available to law enforcement agencies.
Submissions on the discussion paper will be accepted until close of business on Monday, August 5.