In the cloud, your data can get caught up in legal actions

Legitimate users of Megaupload's service have learned this lesson the hard way

By Thomas J. Trappler, Computerworld |  Cloud Computing

With Megaupload essentially shut down, legitimate users couldn't retrieve their data directly as in the past. The government wouldn't release any data while it temporarily had custody of it to gather evidence, and when it was finished with that, it didn't want responsibility for sorting and returning data. Instead, it directed legitimate users to the two infrastructure-as-a-service providers used by Megaupload. The IaaS providers claimed that they had provided only raw infrastructure and never had access to customer data, and so they pointed customers full circle back to Megaupload. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has now stepped in to help sort out this mess .

How could a legitimate Megaupload customer have avoided getting caught up in this? Thoroughly vetting a cloud provider's background and business practices before using its service would be a good first step in most cases. Additionally, you could ensure that your contract obligates the cloud provider to effectively partition customer data. That way, there's at least a chance that law enforcement could seize a bad guy's data without touching yours.

The cloud also complicates things if your own data is subject to some legal action. If your data is subjected to a subpoena or other legal request for access, you have more direct control in managing its release if you are running in-house IT systems, because there is no one involved but you and the requestor. But if your data is in the cloud and the same situation comes up, the subpoena could be issued directly to the cloud provider and your data could be released without your knowledge.

To reduce the risks that come with this decreased control, it's important to determine in advance what your cloud provider's standard policies are regarding such legal requests. If the cloud provider does have such a policy in place, and it aligns with your needs, then negotiate to have that policy codified in the contract.

Your contract should also specify what the provider needs to do if any of your data becomes the subject of a subpoena or other legal or governmental request for access. For example, the contract should state that the cloud provider should:

* Notify you as soon as it receives any subpoena or legal request, ideally before it provides access to any of your data. (Be aware, though, that this may not always be possible in situations where the Patriot Act comes into play.)

* Cooperate with your efforts to avoid, limit or otherwise appropriately manage the release of your data.

* Limit any release of your data to the maximum extent legally possible.


Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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