I’ve been reading and re-reading Jim Fallows’ post from the other week and have concluded I have nothing smart to say that he doesn’t say already. But, here it is:
A reader sends in a link to this recent post by law professor Orin Kerr, on a ruling about how 4th Amendment protections against “unreasonable search and seizure” apply to email. The central question is whether the government needs to inform individual email users when their messages are seized and read — or whether it is sufficient to notify their internet service provider or mail service, like Google or Yahoo. According to the logic of the ruling, by the sheer act of sending email, a user has transferred custody of the messages to a third party. Thus notifying the third party — Google, Yahoo, et al — is enough, with the sender left in the dark.
All parties with a stake in developing cloud-based computing — Google and Microsoft, IBM and Apple, Yahoo and anyone else you can name — should push for clearer policy statements about keeping things private even in the cloud. People simply are going to store and share more information this way. That shouldn’t mean a further, big, automatic, unintended surrender of privacy, and it would be better to set up rules to that effect before there’s a big scandal or problem.
So – what he said.
Okay, maybe I do have a thought or two. Really what this problem advocates for is personal ownership of all identity information: everything either that is or is owned by you living together in a single space (also backed up in multiple redundant spaces) that, crucially, is also yourself such that you always have control over cloud computing resources. So rather than logging in to Google accounts and accessing your information, you log into your own server (virtual or otherwise) and use Google services to edit and modify the information. They get only what you show them at a given time and then it’s back in your own box. When you become your own third-party provider – and Google et al. are merely providing a limited service to manipulate or move your data – then Fourth Amendment questions are much more easily decided.