Cloud Computing, Online Security, and Consumer Culture

By Andrew Jacobson

The Cloud

The Cloud enables one to access applications and data remotely from a number of different devices 

In today’s modernized, digitized, and technologically advanced society, improvements are constantly being made to existing digital infrastructure to enhance productivity and efficiency. One way in which many consumers and businesses alike are doing so is by transitioning to cloud computing programs. At it’s core, the “cloud” is a network-based application that handles user data storage. Programs, documents, files, or data generated through the online platform resides on a network server rather than on a user’s hard drive. As a result, users and companies can handle an increased volume of work without influencing performance, access to storage and applications is made easier, and costly, wasteful data storage centers with physical infrastructure are eliminated. 

Changes Brought About by the Cloud

Implementation of Cloud-Based programs has drastically changed our technologized society

The shift to the cloud has created many transformations in industries and the way in which work is done. Work today is less defined as a place one goes to, but rather by what one does. The cloud enables high degrees of mobility in the workforce, so workers must be connected to their company’s cloud-based infrastructure to interact with data, files, and programs associated with their job. Cloud computing also has achieved financial and economic efficiency, as well as social connection and civic engagement across the globe. 

Cloud Security 

Cloud-based programs pose some security concerns

Despite the numerous advantages the cloud enables with respect to accessibility to data and increased storage capabilities, there are also some potentially negative consequences apparent. The same infrastructure used to enable cloud-based programming can also be manipulated and tapped into by different entities trying to gain access to your private information – such as hackers, companies, or the government. Thus, the security of cloud programs is of high importance to those that use them. 

Online Consumer Culture

Online shopping and the culture associated with it is a fairly recent, but highly important trend of today’s society

As consumers, we want the ability to purchase things as easily and efficiently as possible. Online shopping is one way that we do so. With a click of a button, we can have different things sent to our door at a moment’s notice. This has created an online consumer culture in which millions of people across the globe participate in “ecommerce.” However, there are definite risks and concerns associated with online shopping. 

Online Privacy

Buying things and providing personally identifiable information online poses threats to online consumers

Consumers, both online and in-person, engage in what is known as “default trust.” People by nature are most often trustworthy when engaging with online companies selling different products. As a result, online consumers are at risk of revealing private information to a non-trustworthy online entity. One way this potential problem of revealing information to an untrustworthy third-party is through a given company’s “privacy policy.” The phrase privacy policy is very, (and intentionally) misleading to online consumers. Most people think that the privacy policy they agree to is referring to how their private information will be kept private. In actuality, most privacy policies and “terms and conditions” listed by various companies in fact refer to how they will use your private information. This is due to the fact that the companies want you to come back and buy more things from them, so they tailor personalized advertisements based on your private information, search history, and past purchases.

Online Surveillance

Companies and Governments across the globe monitor your online activities 

 State surveillance and the commodification of personal, private data have become trends since the Internet era, and this issue is especially prevalent when cloud-based programs are present. A major factor that differentiates online from most offline consumer conditions is the collection, retention, distribution, merging, and use of personal information by online businesses and information brokers. The Snowden vs. NASA case revealed to the general public how the government spies on and tracks the entire population. Similarly, surveillance is the business model of the Internet. Everyone is under constant surveillance from many companies, ranging from social networks to cellphone providers. The data is collected, compiled, analyzed, and used to try to sell us stuff.

Future Implications

Legislation has the power to address the numerous privacy and security concerns facing cloud-based programming

Currently, there lacks sufficient legislation regarding data collection, online surveillance, and other issues referenced on this page. There are several programs across the globe that work to safeguard communication flows, but the infrastructure of these programs also facilitates large scale surveillance practices. Thus, there needs to be more accountability taken by data privacy regimes, companies selling things online, and the different governments regarding their current practices. As of right now, people essentially have to accept the fact that they cannot control who has access to their online information, whether it be companies, governments, or, in the worst cases, hackers. Moving forward, there are ways which cloud-based programming can reduce risks of leaking private information. They are centered on promoting transparency. Confidence building between cloud service providers, businesses, governments, and law enforcement agencies using the cloud can help to minimize risks. Furthermore, a comprehensive cyber-security policy should be implemented to encompass public and private sector entities using cloud-based programming.