Conservative IT policies and Cloud Computing

Like dinosaurs slogging it out to the end, the two major political parties in the UK are determined to tear chunks out of each other, while the rest of the Country keeps evolving.

Having seen the debacle of Government being responsible for data security, the Conservative Party have managed to come up with a new wheeze, claiming that Google is a far more appropriate guardian of our data and in particular our medical data.

On the face of it, anyone other than a Government Department corralling data, ready to be left on some-ones lap top while it in turn is left in the boot of their car, may seem more appropriate.

The Tory Party are attempting to portray themselves as the denizens of IT probity, seeking to scratch some cheap political scar on the wheezing Labour Government. However their new sheepskin coats just hide another wolf, keen to reveal as much information about individuals as the Labour machine.

I wouldn’t like to suggest the Tories don’t know what they are talking about, so I can only assume they are well aware of Cloud Computing and the H.R. 3162, the ‘USA PATRIOT Act’ and subsequent amendments.

The Act, among a host of other issues provides for US agents to look at any computer record held on American soil, without need for any suspicion of criminal activity, it also enables data handlers, to be forced to hand over all the information held on file.

This isn’t some long-shot concern. Canadian government IT organizations are told not to use services which store or host the government’s data outside their sovereign territory. They especially are not to use services where data is stored in the United States because of fears over the Patriot Act.

The Tories appear to: not care; have some reason for wishing Data to be stored under the jurisdiction of foreign Governments; or are too busy warrign with Labour to look beyond the Wesminster parapet.

The US+EU’s Safe Harbor program allows US companies to certify that they are correctly handling the data of EU citizens. This is to comply with the EU data protection standards. The safe harbour programme is not of much reassurance and of no value if data is stored in Russia, for example.

Let’s assume that the data is stored not in the USA, rather in say, one of the Google data centres in Russia, or China. It is not difficult to imagine a scenario in which Russia decides they too would like a ‘Patriot Act’ and go about checking the medical records of senior politicians, judiciary, Military and Intelligence services and manage to find some embarrassing trips to consultants. I wonder what joy they would have with that data.

Well Google can store all the data in the UK and all will be well, slight problem on that one. The UK is hardly awash with Google data centres and building another one isn’t a cheap proposition, each data centre project has an estimated cost of US$600 million.

Google world wide data centres

Google world wide data centres

Google world wide data centres

Google European data centres

The Google model of cloud computing is designed for far larger data storage and retrieval than the medical records of the UK population and choosing a provider which is ultimately regulated by a foreign Government seems absolutely ridiculous. In addition Google is working towards software layers that automatically move loads between data centres, thereby circumventing any ‘national boundary’.

I am amazed that the Labour Government didn’t jump aboard the cloud computing band wagon sometime ago, as they could have quietly asked the US Government to look up any file for any citizen in the UK, to which they would normally have to go through judicial process.

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