WPF Resource Page: Cloud Computing and Privacy

About Cloud Computing: The World Privacy Forum Cloud Computing Report, and Cloud Computing Tips


What is Cloud Computing ?

Cloud computing involves the sharing or storage by users of their own information on remote servers owned or operated by others and accessed through the Internet or other connections. Cloud computing services exist in many variations, including data storage sites, video sites, tax preparation sites, personal health record websites, photography websites, social networking sites, and many more.

Any information stored locally on a computer could be stored in the cloud, including email, word processing documents, spreadsheets, videos, health records, photographs, tax or other financial information, business plans, PowerPoint presentations, accounting information, advertising campaigns, sales numbers, appointment calendars, address books, and more.

Cloud computing has significant implications for the privacy of personal information as well as for the confidentiality of business and governmental information. While the storage of user data on remote servers is not new, current emphasis on and expansion of cloud computing warrants a more careful look at its actual and potential privacy and confidentiality consequences. See below for the WPF report and tips on cloud computing and privacy.


REPORT: Privacy in the Clouds: Risks to Privacy and Confidentiality from Cloud Computing

Released February 23, 2009

Author: Robert Gellman

The World Privacy Forum Privacy in the Clouds Report frames and analyzes the issues of privacy and confidentiality in the cloud computing environment. This report discusses the issue of cloud computing and outlines its implications for the privacy of personal information as well as its implications for the confidentiality of business and governmental information. It is the first thorough analysis of the privacy risks of cloud computing.

The report finds that for some information and for some business users, sharing may be illegal, may be limited in some ways, or may affect the status or protections of the information shared. Even when no laws or obligations block the ability of a user to disclose information to a cloud provider, disclosure may still not be free of consequences.

In its analysis and discussion of relevant laws, the report finds that both government agencies and private litigants may be able to obtain information from a third party more easily than from the creator of the information. A cloud provider’s terms of service, privacy policy, and location may significantly affect a user’s privacy and confidentiality interests.

Download the Report (PDF)

Read the Report


CONSUMER TIPS: Cloud Computing Privacy Tips for Consumers, Business, and Government

Released February 23, 2009

Download the Cloud Computing Privacy Tips (PDF)

Read the Cloud Computing Privacy Tips


Cloud Computing Tips for Consumers:

  • Read the Terms of Service before placing any information in the cloud. If you don’t understand the Terms of Service, consider using a different cloud provider.
  • Don’t put anything in the cloud you would not want the government or a private litigant to see.
  • Pay close attention if the cloud provider reserves rights to use, disclose, or make public your information.
  • Read the privacy policy before placing your information in the cloud. If you don’t understand the policy, consider using a different provider.
  • When you remove your data from the cloud provider, does the cloud provider still retain rights to your information? If so, consider whether that makes a difference to you.
  • Will the cloud provider give advance notice of any change of terms in the terms of service or privacy policy?


Cloud Computing Tips for Business and Government:

  • Beware of “ad hoc” cloud computing. Any organization should have standardized rules in place telling employees when and if they may utilize cloud computing and for what data.
  • Don’t put anything in the cloud you wouldn’t want a competitor, your government, or another government to see.
  • Read the Terms of Service. Then read the Terms of Service again.
  • Make sure that you are not violating any law or policy, by putting data in the cloud, and think twice before putting any consumer data in the cloud.
  • Consult with your technical, security or corporate governance advisors about the advisability of putting data in the cloud.


Resources on Cloud Computing: