Cloud and the law

Published On: 2011-01-02By:

Moving data into the cloud is a huge thing with Microsoft and Amazon (among others).  However for those in countries that aren’t the US there are some major road blocks to putting your data into the cloud.

The first issue is that when the cloud provider is a US company (which most of them are at the moment) then your data falls under US law, as well as any laws which exist if the data is being stored in a non-US data center.  So basically if you are a non-US company and you use these services to host your data, the US government can issue a National Security letter to the cloud provider and get a copy of all the data that is hosted by the US company.  (This effects those of us who live in the US, but there’s nothing we can do about it as we are already here.)

Additionally there’s some major gray area in US law at the moment.  This has to do with the abandoned property laws.  These laws were put together in the 90s or so when leaving data on a server for long periods of time was abnormal.  These laws basically say that if data has been hosted on a 3rd party server (the cloud in this case) for over 90 days this data is abandoned and the US Government can request access to the data, without the need for a search warrant.  Seeing as the whole point of using the cloud is to host your company data on a third party server these laws become a pretty big stumbling block.

Some countries have laws about where the data for their citizens can be stored.  Check with your national government to see if it is even legal for you to store data in another country.  Don’t forget that when picking your cloud provider, even if the data center you pick to host your data is within your country, there wouldn’t be anything stopping your cloud provider from replicating your data to another country for backup or high availability / disaster recovery.

There are lots of other laws to be informed about before moving your data into the cloud.  Be sure to do your research before moving your application to the cloud.


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