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ACLU of Northern California




“Cloud computing” - the ability to create, store, and manipulate data through Web-based services - is growing in popularity. Cloud computing itself may not transform society; for most consumers, it is simply an appealing alternative tool for creating and storing the same records and documents that people have created for years. However, outdated laws and varying corporate practices mean that documents created and stored in the cloud may not have the same protections as the same documents stored in a filing cabinet or on a home computer. Can cloud computing services protect the privacy of their consumers? Do they? And what can we do to improve the situation?

Cloud Computing: Storm Warning for Privacy? is the first in a series of issue papers by the ACLU of Northern California that discuss new technology trends and their consequences. This paper examines the current state of legal and technical privacy protections for consumers of cloud computing services and explores opportunities for consumers, businesses, and policymakers to work together to update and enhance these protections.

Part I of this paper provides background information on cloud computing. Part II examines the privacy concerns that arise from the use of cloud computing services and Part III surveys the current state of privacy protections for consumers of these services. Finally, Part IV identifies opportunities for legal, technological, and social mechanisms to be reinforced so that Internet consumers are not forced to lose control of their information when they use cloud computing services.

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