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Old 07-20-2009, 07:42 AM   #1
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Default Cloud-computing

Jonathan Zittrain, attorney, author of The Future of the Internet — and How to Stop It, and early member of CompuServe, has a long op-ed piece in today’s N.Y. Times: “Lost in the Cloud.”

He describes cloud-computing and lists its benefits, but the article is mainly about the hazards, including loss of critical data to business problems (the host goes out of business or thinks you didn’t pay your monthly fee on time, say); vulnerability to hacking; inability to shield private information from casual government view; and more. Zittrain believes safeguards for most of these potential problems could be developed, but not easily.

More important in his view is the effect of private-party control over so much data: “This freedom [that we have on physical computers] is at risk in the cloud, where the vendor of a platform has much more control over whether and how to let others write new software.” Microsoft cannot prevent you from running Firefox or OpenOffice; but a cloud operator could very well do that. He offers examples from Apple (which refuses to allow some apps from working on the iPhone) and FaceBook (which allows plugins and games but reserves the right to change the rules on their use).

He also mentions Amazon’s “generic” cloud system, which permits anyone to develop systems that operate without gatekeeping by FaceBook, et al; and Google’s Android platform for mobile phones that places fewer restrictions on code from third parties than Apple does. [But as we are beginning to see, those companies also have their own interests that do not necessarily match the needs of users.]

Anyway, lots of questions, a few suggestions of solutions (or approaches, anyway), but mostly a nice clarifying read.

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