Sunday, January 24, 2010

"Cloud Computing" Topic at Brookings

Brad Smith, Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Microsoft urges both Congress and the information technology industry to act now to ensure that the burgeoning era of cloud computing will be guided by an international commitment to privacy, security, and transparency for consumers, businesses, and government.

As the keynote speaker at the January 20th Brookings Institution event held on “Cloud Computing for Business and Society” he explained, we have entered a new era called cloud computing where software runs not only on the user’s own PC and IT systems but also the user is increasingly using applications and services increasingly obtained from the internet and from other remote data centers.

The potential benefits of cloud computing enable organizations to customize and rapidly scale their IT systems for their particular needs, enables expanded access to computational capabilities previously available only to the very largest global companies, and provides for better collaboration for users throughout the world.

At the Brookings event, Smith called for a national conversation on building confidence in the cloud and proposed that the “Cloud Computing Advancement Act” be put in place to promote innovation, protect consumers, and provide government with new tools to address the critical issues of data privacy and security. Smith also wants to have an international dialogue on data sovereignty to guarantee users that their data is subject to the same rules and regulations, regardless of where the data resides.

Microsoft is proposing legislation to:

• Improve privacy protection and data access rules by strengthening the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to clearly define and provide for stronger protections for consumers and businesses

• Modernize the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act so that law enforcement has the tools it needs to go after malicious hackers and to deter instances of online-based crimes

• Enhance security through greater transparency to help users benefit from Truth-in-Cloud-Computing principles. Consumers and businesses would then know whether and how their information is accessed and used by service providers and how the information is protected

• To pursue a new multilateral framework to address data access issues globally. Congress should ensure that the Executive Branch has the resources to engage in international negotiations to develop the framework needed to promote clarity and consistency in data protection

A panel discussion followed with Darrell West, Vice President and Director of Governance Studies at Brookings moderating. He said the internet is critical for the nation’s growth but added that the digital infrastructure needs to be supported and maintained just like the U.S. maintains roads and bridges.

Michael Nelson, PhD, Visiting Professor of Internet Studies in Georgetown University’s Communication, Culture, and Technology Program voiced his opinion that competition will help cloud computing and in two or three years cloud computing will be controlled by two or three companies. We cannot be locked into one company’s solution as we need to listen to customers, and provide customers choices along with transparency.

The panelists were in agreement that the Federal government needs to play a role in developing the Cloud, be there to clarify and update the rules, address privacy and security in the cloud especially in the case of mobile devices, and crack down on state centered lawlessness as in exhibited in countries like China.