There is a heated civil rights battle taking place on the Internet right now. And unlike traditional incidents of descent which have previously been focused at a single state, this battle is pitting the civilians of the world against multiple governments and corporate influences that often act in teams.
On one hand, you have the revolutionaries who aim to protect online privacy and freedom of speech. This includes groups like Anonymous, Wikileaks, the TOR Project and the EFF. And on the other side, you have countries like the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, and groups like the European Union and the RIIA.
Even if you’re not currently concerned about these issues, you should begin to think about how today’s decisions could affect you in the future. Slowly but surely, the PC era is melting away. Most of the applications which used to be locally hosted – such as word processing, CRM, email, invoicing applications, video players, etc… – are gradually being replaced with powerful cloud-based services which are remotely hosted at another facility. And it’s now very important for consumers to remain aware of where this data is being physically stored and handled.
Even if a new foreign law seems perfectly reasonable right now, there is no telling how it may be interpreted in the future.
A perfect example of this would be the USA Patriot act. When first enacted, the US Government promised that it would only be used to fight the terrorist who were responsible for the 9/11 attacks. But as we’ve seen, the Patriot act is almost exclusively used to spy on US civilians.
This might be a problem for a company operating out of a country which has consumer privacy protection laws. In Canada, it’s believed that a patriot act breach south of the border could put a company in violation of consumer protection obligations under PIPEDA. For this reason, many Canadian companies prefer to work with cloud providers within their own borders.
And although criticism of the government is openly practiced and celebrated as a form of patriotism in the USA, a US citizen could get into trouble if this activity is practiced on a cloud server which is hosted in a country such as China or Saudi Arabia.
To illustrate my point, let’s take the example of an Australian business owner who relies primarily on cloud-based services that are mostly hosted in the USA. The company has 50 employees, and they all communicate using collaboration software, CRM systems, email servers and accounting software which reside in the cloud.
In Australia, the ACMA has the authority to block access to overseas web sites and maintain automated blacklists through filtering software. By hosting their critical business applications on foreign cloud servers, the previously mentioned business faces the risk that their business may suddenly – and without warning – be blocked out from all of their critical business applications. The company could literally be frozen and destroyed overnight due to a simple bureaucratic mistake or decision.
This may sound far-fetched, but imagine the following scenario. Let’s suppose that Gmail begins serving ads for a film about suicide, or an ad for a web site which discusses the effects of marijuana, or a web site which describes how to protect your home against burglaries, or an ad for a violent movie, or an advertisement for a charity which helps war victims in Palestine. All of these are examples of content delivery which could potentially get Gmail placed on a blacklist, depending on how the government chose to interpret the law.
This might sound extreme, but current examples of web sites which are being blocked by the Australian government include Kennels, Truckstop Conveners, and Dentists. Even parts of Wikipedia are blocked to Australians under this mechanism. Censorship in this country is very wild and unpredictable.
In order to protect yourself from international legal conflicts which could potentially violate your privacy and cause your data to be wiped out or blocked, it’s a good idea to place a special preference on hosted cloud services which reside within your borders.
About The Author: SaaSCanada is the leading review site for Canadian Online Backup service providers.