On the Media is an excellent resource always, but the second segment of the Apr. 23, 2010 goes over the lack of protection afforded data in the cloud due to the Stored Communications Act, an increasingly important topic.
Current law allows a very low standard for access to “Stored Communication” such as Gmail or Google Docs or any other “cloud service.” It turns out that Google gets about 20 requests for data a day and if an investigator asks for your email they do not need a warrant to get it.
If you don’t own the hardware, you don’t own the data.
Even if the Stored Communications Act is overturned, any data you store on a remote server such as Google’s, is Google’s and not yours. You have no right to get it back, no rights controlling Google’s dissemination of your data or resale thereof. In many cases there is a click through agreement with the service provider which may, for example, state that certain information will be kept private or not sold, but such clauses are typically superseded by statements claiming the right to rewrite the agreement without notification.
For example, FaceBook might change default privacy settings such that information you stored on their server with the understanding that it would be kept private is later exposed to search engines and indexed and thus made public, thereby increasing search traffic to their site, and thus to their advertisers.
FaceBook did not give, and was not required to give any particular notice. The data you put on their servers is theirs, not yours.
Don’t put data in the “cloud” you don’t want to be public. Google Docs is not a replacement for Open Office on your own hardware. Companies don’t make any money offering you free, private compute resources and storage; these services are profitable by exploiting the value of your information. In the long run it is probably cheaper to buy your own hardware.
Side note: in this excellent episode of OTM, they also cover the GAO’s pooping all over the MPAA/RIAA linkage between guerrilla antitrust (unauthorized copying) and economic problems. OTM also points out the linkage between the asinine ruling against the FCC and Net Neutrality, which is a free speech disaster, and worse still the MPAA/RIAA efforts to create a world-wide three-strikes rule to extort money to replace the money they used to be able to generate with their obsolete business model.