Lost in the Cloud

Privacy and Security, Networks, the Internet, and Cloud Computing and Cloud Computing

Article Snapshot


Jonathan Zittrain


New York Times, July 19, 2009


This op-ed raises concerns about storing personal files on the Internet.

Policy Relevance

Consumers might need some protection if online services try to restrict competition or unfairly change their contracts with users.

Main Points

  • When you use a service like Google’s Chrome or Facebook, your computer files are stored far away by the commercial service, instead of being stored on your consumer’s personal computer on your desk.
    • This is called “cloud computing.”
  • “Cloud computing” makes sense, because you won’t lose your files if you lose your laptop. But it has drawbacks too:
    • Trusting files to remote service might mean that others, including government and law enforcement, can access your files.
    • You could lose your files if the service goes out of business or changes its contract terms.
    • Computer users might have less freedom to innovate using technology stored online than they would with technology on their desktop. This could reduce competition.
  • Safeguards should be developed to so that people can always retrieve their files from the Internet when they want to.
  • Policymakers might need to prevent discrimination from online services that try to stop users from innovating on the service’s platform.

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