An increasing number of companies are realizing the benefits of cloud time tracking
, cloud billing
and other initiatives that involve cloud computing. Along with this rising popularity come corporate and consumer concerns about information privacy and security that need to be addressed in a two-pronged fashion. Specifically, laws that are already in place need to be updated in order to take the latest technological developments into account, while additional legislation may have to be introduced as well.Cloud computing and legal protections
Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, recently introduced a bill to "improve the enforcement of criminal and civil law with respect to cloud computing," as quoted by Santa Clara University law professor Eric Goldman in a recent Forbes blog post
. Goldman acknowledges that the Cloud Computing Act of 2012 is unlikely to ever actually be passed because it was introduced so soon before the election, but it still sets a precedent and an example.
Essentially, the bill aims to shore up existing protections under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) by integrating aspects that are specific to what it calls "cloud computing services." For instance, under the proposed legislation, each unauthorized access of a cloud computing account constitutes a separate CFAA offense, and each CFAA violation represents a minimum loss of $500 per account.
In his analysis of the bill, Goldman points out several perceived shortcomings and contends that "even well-meaning legislators can botch internet regulation." The legislators of today are working with an act that has been in existence since the mid-1980s and underwent numerous amendments over the years—each of which makes it more unwieldy, according to Goldman.
Additionally, there are problems at the heart of the bill itself—particularly its definition of cloud computing, which Goldman termed "incoherent." He specifically called out the breadth of the definition, noting "Every user-generated content website seems to qualify; but so should every online bank. In fact, this definition of cloud computing service probably becomes co-extensive with the internet generally." He chalked much of this up to the complex nature of cloud computing, and the fact that legislators tend not to be altogether familiar with the latest developments. Moreover, the trend of "regulatory exceptionalism" further complicates matters by attempting to segment specific internet subsets.