Pioneering Campus CIOs Say Necessity Drives Shift to Cloud By David Raths 10/25/11
A recent survey of campus IT leaders suggested that most colleges and universities are still gun shy about cloud computing. Yet if attendance at conference meetings is any gauge, there is widespread curiosity about the experience of early adopters.
The number of U.S. government requests for data on Google users for use in criminal investigations rose 29 percent in the last six months, according to data released by the search giant Monday. By Ryan Singel October 25, 2011 | 11:07 am
I think the old adage about Greeks Bearing Gifts applies here, or should I say geeks bearing gifts?! Cloud computing as it applies to desktop productivity apps is a double-edged sword as it is commonly practiced in Higher Ed. What was once seen as a major outsourcing/cost-savings dumping Student email off to willing companies like Google is now seen as the ‘wave of the future’ where desktops give way to mobile devices and Web apps slowly evolve into just apps, independent of the websites where they actually run. However beware dear reader as those contracts you sign and the myriad terms of your Service Level Agreement are hammered out, rules can change. And by that I mean, the rule regarding simple things like, National Security Letters sent by the FBI to Google Inc. for the email of an individual you have outsourced your Student Email services to. I ask here to anyone who is reading, does Google under the terms of its contracts with a Higher Ed I.T. unit have to notify anyone that they are sending 6 months or more of GMail messages to the FBI to read at their leisure?
I’m reminded somewhat of the bad old days under Napster, where Higher Ed eventually started to receive mass quantities of DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) notices about infringing music files being shared over their data networks. In cases like that, each school could set its own policy. Some were very neutral asking for proof of the infringement, and in some cases ignoring the request because the point of origin was not the copyright holder but a 3rd party clearance group who spammed every University on behalf of the Recording Industry (RIAA). The beauty of the democracy and law for DMCA requests meant each institution could now decide how best to pursue the matter and do so at their own discretion. Not so with government requests for electronic data, oh no. For a national security letter, the University doesn’t even have to notify the individual that their data is being shared to the FBI. Nor can the tell anyone, it’s a complete, air-tight gag order placed on the service provider whomever they may be (Library, Student Records, or University I.T.) Whither the case of the outsourced University I.T. then?
In the haste to save money the SLAs Universities across the U.S. have made with big name providers like Google have made everyone subject to the rules governing that provider. Google is not an institution of Higher Ed. They are for profit, a U.S. corporation subject to all the laws governing any company chartered in the U.S. And they unlike Higher Ed do not have the interest, much less the luxury of responding to National Security letters in their own way, or at their own discretion. In fact, they don’t have to tell anyone what their actually policy as such is that’s private only for their top level officers and their Legal Dept. to know. So in the mad rush to create the omnipresent future of ‘Cloud Computing’ one must ask themselves, are we really only making the surveillance by Government easier? Are we really understanding what we give up when we decide to adopt applications/data hosted in the Cloud? Sure, yes, privacy as then CEO of Sun Microsystems Scott McNeely once boasted is ‘You have zero privacy anyway, get over it‘. But do we really understand the full implication of what this means?
I dare say it’s the folks focusing on the bottom line who are signing away our rights without us ever getting a say. And while I understand that even non-profit Higher Ed is run like a business, they are the last folks who should be participating in this construction of the Data Cloud Surveillance State we find ourselves in now. If we cannot choose for ourselves, what then do we have left for ourselves? Our thoughts? Our feelings? Sorry no, those too are now housed in the cloud by the likes of Facebook Timeline lifesteaming. Now everyone knows everything and you have surrendered it all just for the sake of catching up with some old College and High School friends. That’s too high a price to pay I think. So, to the degree possible I am unwilling to just let this ‘freedom’ ebb through a process of adopting this new App or that new platform. The new New Thing maybe cool, but there’s a whole lotta string attached.