Privacy Commissioner and the Cloud

The Privacy Commissioner is in the news:

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada announced today upcoming consultations with Canadians on privacy issues related to cloud computing practices.

“Businesses and individual Canadians are increasingly likely to make use of cloud computing technologies,”? said Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart. “And yet, they are often unaware that their activities could be affecting their own privacy. Our goal is to learn more about these issues, so that Canadians, in turn, can also become better informed.”?

Hard to imagine anyone on the Internet not making use of the cloud these days.

Burton Group defines Cloud Computing this way:

The set of disciplines, technologies, and business models used to deliver IT capabilities (software, platforms, hardware) as an on-demand, scalable, elastic service.

Cloud computing is characterized by five essential characteristics:

  • It uses shared infrastructure.
  • It provides on-demand self-service.
  • It is elastic and scalable.
  • It is priced by consumption.
  • It is dynamic and virtualized.

The Privacy Commissioner defines Cloud Computing this way:

Cloud computing typically refers to the provision of web-based services using hardware and software managed by third parties. The services, including online file storage, social networking sites, webmail and online business applications, are generally located on remote computers. They are available over network connections, regardless of the user”™s own location.

You can provide a response to The Privacy Commissioner on this subject by email but you will find this warning on their site:

As we cannot guarantee the security of electronic systems or e-mail, we do not recommend sending sensitive personal information electronically at this time.

2 replies
  1. Colin McKay
    Colin McKay says:

    Hi Richard.

    Thank you for highlighting the consultations. I think I can agree that the Office can seem anachronistic, but our goal is always to analyze contemporary trends and anticipate how they will affect the security of personal information. We try to do this in language that speaks to the average Canadian – sometimes at the implied cost of technical clarity.

    As for the caution about e-mails, this note is meant to alert those individuals that might otherwise send us highly personal narratives in the course of pursuing a complaint. Despite the ubiquity of e-mail, our Office feels this caution is warranted – without the sender taking appropriate steps to encrypt their message.


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