Microsoft’s View On Privacy in Cloud Computing

In this article I will try and explain Microsoft’s view on cloud computing and privacy – where Microsoft feels that governments across the world should come together to create a uniform policy. Microsoft stands as a premier cloud service provider – not to mention the famous SkyDrive, in addition to Office 365 and Windows Azure. Most of us are using the free 25GB provided by SkyDrive to store all kind of files. SkyDrive also allows creation of Word documents, Excel Spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations and OneNote files without having to install Microsoft Office locally to the hard disk.

Microsoft Cloud Computing Views

Cloud Computing Privacy and Security

What kind of privacy should one expect from cloud service providers? There are plenty of cloud operators out there – including but not limited to Microsoft, Google, Ubuntu and Mozy. Let us see what Microsoft has to say about Privacy in cloud services.

Cloudy Issues

The problem or probably, the advantage of cloud computing is that the servers are free from location and time limitations. Once your data is on the cloud, it can be on a server space rented out in your building or on a server on the other side of the cloud.

Physical limitations become irrelevant when it comes to cloud computing. However, the same attributes of cloud computing raise important considerations such as how individuals and organizations should handle information and interact with their cloud provider.

Building The Trust Factor

In case of traditional information technology model, an organization is accountable for every aspect of data protection. In case of cloud, third party too comes in. Since it is the cloud service provider who offers you storage space (as in above example), he too is responsible for data security.

In case of clouds, many new challenges are born:

  • Defining the allocation of responsibilities and obligations between cloud service providers and customers
  • Creating sufficient transparency about the allocation
  • Defining the responsibilities of both cloud service provider and customers

Microsoft says it understands that strong privacy protections are necessary to build the trust required in cloud computing. Without the trust, cloud computing cannot reach its full potential. In its own words, “We invest in building secure and privacy-sensitive systems and datacenters that help protect individuals’ privacy, and we adhere to clear, responsible policies in our business practices—from software development through service delivery, operations, and support.”

Governments On Clouds Can Dampen Your Data

Though Microsoft does explicitly state it, the point is true. Most of the governments want to know what is happening in their territories. The law of land may compel a cloud service provider to give out essential information about the cloud services being availed by the customers. This becomes even difficult as the data centers in a cloud scenario span multiple countries.

How does Microsoft plan to counter this problem? It says users, cloud service providers and the different governments should lay down common points so that no one is left searching for clues.

“A cooperative effort from all cloud stakeholders, including governments, is necessary. […] Ultimately, the technology industry, users of cloud services, and governments must agree on certain core cloud privacy practices that span industries and are harmonized across borders. Such agreements will provide greater clarity and predictability for individuals, customers, and cloud providers. […]”

This artcle is based on a whitepaper released by Microsoft, “Privacy In Cloud”, A Microsoft Perspective”.

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Arun Kumar is a Microsoft MVP alumnus, obsessed with technology, especially the Internet. He deals with the multimedia content needs of training and corporate houses. Follow him on Twitter @PowercutIN