I have never seen the point of online storage systems, or ‘cloud storage’ as it seems to be called. That might be due to the time I spent weeks analysing the statistics for a big and complex project only to suffer a hard disk crash and the prospect of doing it all again.
Now I have external backup hard disks and really important stuff goes on to CD/DVD as well as – not instead of – those external backup disks. Novels are on those and also on USB sticks, and I will never again have to start from scratch on any project.
This means I have no need of this ‘cloud cuckoo’ storage. Disaster-induced paranoia has taken care of all my backup needs. The cloud idea always looked like something that could be made accessible to everyone. In fact, wasn’t that part of the idea? You gave family and friends the keys to those online holiday snaps and they could look them up. I prefer to send them a DVD full of pics, the DVD is very cheap and postage isn’t all that much, and they then have the DVD as backup if their own system ever fails.
There was also the prospect of using it for business files, so that you could put a file in the cloud and it could be read and commented on by business partners anywhere in the world. I would never do that. Put something commercially confidential into a computer hosted God knows where and accessible by people who might have an interest in spilling the beans to a rival company, or who might see a handy backhander coming their way if they do? A remote risk, perhaps, but an utterly unnecessary one. Most of my work has been for relatively small companies and some of the big boys would love to get hold of certain reports. If they want them, they can pay the company who paid me to produce them. Not some spotty cloud-jockey browsing among the allegedly private info.
So no, the cloud idea passed me by entirely. I have nothing I can use it for.
As you would expect, governments, in this case the American government but also pretty much every other government on the sly, regard this information as theirs to peruse at their leisure. There is Outrage! from the ‘nothing to hide, nothing to fear’ crowd.
Do they imagine the US government is interested in their badly-aligned, out of focus party images taken with a camera that has more intelligence than they do and rolls its lens in desperation every time they select the wrong settings?
What are they scared of? That the photo of bathtime for baby will have them hauled up on child porn charges? Well… these days, maybe it would. It used to be, long ago, standard fare for parents to pull out the grainy monochrome ‘naked on a rug’ photo when the new girlfriend came for tea. Also the one of you picking your nose with that look of intense concentration, the one in the smock with embroidered soldiers, and so on. (At this point I’m hoping that it’s not just me, that I didn’t have unusually sadistic parents)
These days, touching your child in public can get you arrested. Touching someone else’s can get you lynched on the spot.
Once, in about 1981 or so, I was stopped by a small boy in a duffel coat. The coat with those odd horn-shaped buttons that fitted into loops. It was very cold and he couldn’t work out how to do them up. I did them for him and sent him on his way. Would I do the same now? Honestly, I don’t think I’d even dare acknowledge his presence. There would be helicopters overhead and marksmen on every roof before that first button was fastened. The world has become a sad and hateful place and it all happened for the sake of the cheeeldren.
Sometimes I recall that small boy and wonder if he’s worked out how to get his coat off yet. There is a grinning malicious part of me that imagines some bloke in his thirties with a really, really stretched duffel coat still in place.
Anyway, back to this cloud thing. What are people putting on there that they don’t want the US government to see? I say, let all those governments waste their time wading through photos of parties and holidays, files full of dreadful books and putrid poetry, the angst-ridden diaries of acne-riddled teenagers and barely-literate adults. Let them have the haystack and don’t tell them how to find the needle. It will keep them out of everyone’s way for a while.
Yes, it is a privacy issue. There are photos of me at the tail end of drinking sessions that I would prefer had never been taken. To be honest, pretty much every photo of me is one I wish had never been taken. Except the one with the huge ginger false beard and the plastic googly eyes. Must find that one and use it as an avatar. I think it was when I was in the process of developing Jimmy Edwards sideburns for no other reason than that it was funny.
Okay, I do not agree that the government should have access to anyone’s private data. no matter what it contains. Even if it contains embryonic plans for the destruction of the entire human race and its replacement with a master race bred from genetically modified hamsters (phew, good thing I didn’t put that in the cloud). No, they should not be able to rip into anyone’s information for any reason.
What’s that? To catch criminals and terrorists? If either of those are dim enough to put their plans into such an easily ripped system, then they aren’t clever enough to evade capture for very long. If they are very clever, they will now put decoys into the cloud to send the government snoopers in entirely the wrong direction while continuing to communicate by standard letter post.
It’s pointless to spy on the many to catch the few. It just makes enforcement harder, and these days, with the terabytes of info floating around, it makes enforcement impossible. Perhaps that’s the point, since enforcement doesn’t seem to be a priority of governments nor of the judiciary these days. In fact, I can see why the police issue so many cautions to the scroats now. At least that way they end up with some kind of criminal record, rather than wasting a lot of time taking them to court where they’ll get told off and released anyway.
All this is, is another Panopticon. It’s a prison where you can’t see the guards but the guards might be watching you at any time. Sure, you know they can’t watch everyone all the time but you never know when they’re looking at you. You’re not locked up but the rate at which new laws are passed mean you can never be sure if you’ve broken one.
Like CCTV, like the monitoring of all those innocuous emails and phone calls and website visits, it is impossible to police in any way that could yield any meaningful result. It’s not meant to produce any concrete result.
It’s meant to scare you into submission. It does not even need to be actually implemented. Judging by the comments, it’s already worked.
This Cloud Panopticon needs no guards at all.