April 22, 2014
By SafeGov Contributor, Paul Rosenzweig
American privacy rules are increasingly becoming irrelevant to the rest of the world. That may be a good thing (if you think American privacy regulation is too lax) or a bad thing (if you think the privacy rules in other countries are too stringent). But whatever your view of the normative question, there can be no doubt that, as a descriptive matter, European privacy rules are driving the public debate – both with respect to privacy vis-à-vis governments (after the Snowden affair) and also vis-à-vis corporations who use cloud services. In the near-to-mid-term it seems increasingly likely that the European privacy vision will prevail – call it “privacy imperialism” if you will.
A case in point is the growing use of cloud architectures for business purposes. The business case for that transition is strong: To begin with, cloud systems are much less expensive than stand-alone server solutions. In a cloud system all the costs are pooled among a community of users. This makes the system significantly more efficient – no small benefit in these times of lean budgets and financial austerity. To take a prosaic example, only a single copy of a rarely used software program is needed on standby in the cloud to be used on-demand.
In addition the cloud will bring with it real security benefits. Sophisticated and costly security solutions that are too expensive for an individual user or small companies are more affordable when the costs are distributed among a larger group of users. Likewise, sophisticated solutions that may be too cumbersome to run on a stand-alone personal computer or laptop (or today‘s tablet or phone) can run effortlessly on the larger server systems maintained by cloud service providers.
Finally, and most significantly, the transition to the cloud can enhance resilience. Cloud architecture is more immune to intrusion with greater redundancy, including off-site backups of data and software capabilities. At a time when natural disasters or terrorist-caused catastrophes loom it makes eminent sense for any corporation to ensure the continuity of its operations through the use of cloud systems.
Seen through this lens, recent decisions by various European Union institutions take on greater significance.
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Paul Rosenzweig previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He is currently a Senior Advisor to The Chertoff Group, a global security advisory firm which advises clients on information security including cloud computing.safegoveu