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Microsoft calls for regulations over cloud computing

Microsoft plans to call Wednesday for greater government involvement in the largely unregulated and fast-growing cloud computing industry. The move, expected to come in a Washington speech by a top company executive, seeks to establish the software giant as a major voice on cloud computing, a burgeoning field where big dollars are at stake as businesses race to transfer information to the Web.

Microsoft, along with Google, is making a strong push into cloud computing, which allows firms to store large amounts of data on remote servers that are maintained by third parties and accessible via the Internet. But the technology platform, like many aspects of the Web, has not yet been regulated in the way that, for example, broadcasters and other telecom sectors have been.

Microsoft's general counsel Brad Smith plans to argue in his speech Wednesday at the Brookings Institution that without clear rules for privacy and security in cloud computing, faith in the nascent, Web-based technology could be hampered.

“Congress needs to act,” Smith said in an interview. “Before the promise of cloud computing can fully be realized, we must address users’ concerns that moving data to the cloud might render it less secure and less private.”

Specifically, Smith will call for an update of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, “because of uncertainty regarding the scope of the Fourth Amendment protections for online communications.” He said that an updated version of that law should clearly apply those protections to the Web. For example, the U.S. government and governments around the world can ask data center operators for information that they hold on behalf of customers.

“We see a lack of clarity in law and we are concerned about what that privacy means for consumer privacy,” Smith said.

The company also plans to call for stronger protections against cyber attacks by reforming the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to make it easier to impose felony penalties on those attackers and allow cloud providers to go after hackers on behalf of their customers.

Leslie Harris, chief executive of the public interest group Center for Democracy & Technology, said that the Obama administration has paid greater attention to cloud computing and notes that the federal government is considering using the platform for some of its agencies.

“At the end of the day we have a global Internet and we are only starting to talk about the issues that are coming out of it,” Harris said. The CDT has worked with Microsoft on its call for policy reforms.

By Cecilia Kang  |  January 20, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Microsoft , cloud  
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The laws "protecting" digital information are so outdated that it's not clear how they even apply to modern technologies like cloud computing. Reform of those laws is essential to ensure protection for personal information and documents in the cloud. And as Brad Smith suggests, clear and comprehensive legal protection is good for businesses too since internet users will be more comfortable using cloud computing services.

The ACLU of Northern California has a "Demand Your dotRights" campaign so that internet users can learn about privacy on the internet and can demand laws to protect personal information. Check out our page on cloud computing:

- ACLU of Northern California

Posted by: Demand_Your_dotRights | January 20, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

It’s time to update laws and put in place consumer safeguards to catch up with the evolving technological landscape.

Our laws need to cover new and emerging technologies without damaging innovation. I applaud Microsoft and Brookings for leading these efforts towards driving the discussion of these crucial issues to consumers and corporations alike.

Posted by: techleadership | January 20, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Ah the wonders of cloud computing. Pick a place with cheap real estate costs, cheap electricity, cheap telecommunications, and cheap labor to monitor the servers.

I guess the answer is obvious and the servers should be overseas.

Only those with a short memory have forgotten the Sun idea of the "network is the computer" is simply "cloud computing".

Apparently with very cheap hardware the future is now the centralization of data which is now simply a cheap commodity business.

Posted by: bsallamack | January 20, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

The physical location of cloud servers is what we should be making laws for, not any of this other crap. Outsourcing has ruined this countries labor force and economy. No matter how much the bottom line has increased for our companies, we have a workforce that is dumb and unemployed because instead of these companies investing in educating their workforce, they just sit back on their pile of money and let countries such as India and the Phillipines do all of the work that us Americans should be doing. Change outsourcing laws, then we are making progress.

Posted by: BMACattack | January 20, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse

BMACattack - it's far too late for any sort of meaningful legislation that will save this country's technological expertise. Now, if you care to check, U.S. student enrollment in science, mathematics, computer programming, and engineering is at an all time low. I know. My son, a straight A student in Mathematics at Oregon State University (Senior Status, too) was going to apply to the Engineering school and was *strongly* discouraged from so doing by his guidance counselor because stable careers are simply not available for U.S. citizens in those fields. He has, instead, applied to law school. It's pretty significant when our best and brightest are discouraged by honest career counselors. We, as a nation, are doomed to crawl into third world status.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | January 20, 2010 7:05 PM | Report abuse

This may sound cynical, but is it merely an attempt by MSFT to shake the government money tree, since their desktop product sales aren't as rosy as in days of yore?

Posted by: charlieartist | January 20, 2010 7:51 PM | Report abuse

Cloud Computing is Big Brothers wet dream.

All your person data, thoughts, emails, events... All at the fingertips of anyone who wants it.

Enjoy your newfound slavery in the name of security...

If you care about your data, I recommend you keep things at home on PGP encrypted drives.

Posted by: ProveMeWrong | January 20, 2010 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Is anybody else tired of hearing the suits using that trite phrase, "at the end of the day?" The bottom line is, like, you know, I am totally over it!

Posted by: swmuva | January 20, 2010 10:17 PM | Report abuse

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