Clouds never forget, warns Hackett

Consumers need to be more aware that once content is in the cloud, it may never be deleted, according to Internode managing director Simon Hackett.

Consumers need to be more aware that once content is in the cloud, it may never be deleted, according to Internode managing director Simon Hackett.

In a panel discussion on industry convergence at the Communications Alliance's Broadband and Beyond 2012 conference in Sydney yesterday, Hackett said that while Apple and Google battle over which cloud would store customers' data, customers need to think about the implications of storing their data with either company, because once Google or Apple has the data, it could be stuck there forever, regardless of the customer's wishes.

"There's two parts to this, and it's not always obvious to the consumer. One is whether you can liberate your data in the sense of whether you can get it out of Google and take it away," he said.

"There's a second question: did Google delete it? Is it still in there? We need to learn as a society ... that if you whack a photo on Facebook, it's not going away.

"There's a separate issue about privacy, which is the inability to remove data, to really expunge data from the cloud if later you decide it is data you really don't want to have there."

Google's Australian head of public policy and government affairs Iarla Flynn said that it is in Google's economic interest to allow customers to remove their own data, and pointed to Google's Data Liberation Front engineer team, which examines all Google products to ensure that customers are able to get their data out if they wish. However, he also admitted that it is a "work in progress".

"It is a serious effort. There are a lot of people involved, [but] Google has a lot of products. It has to remain a work in progress, but the core point remains — philosophically, you don't win by locking people in. We think openness is the way of the internet."

Despite Flynn's assertions, Hackett said that Apple and Google are fighting to get the data into the cloud simply because it will make it harder for customers to leave farther down the track.

"It's no longer about the economics of the plan you're on. It's just about finding it too damn hard to shift horses," he said.

"When Google and Apple and others are competing for which one of them can give away that incredible extensive cloud capacity, what they're getting back is your undying loyalty, in the literal sense."

He said that although Google and Apple are offering a lot of their cloud products for free, customers are still paying a price for that storage.

"[The clouds] learn more about you than you want to learn about yourself. It's not about money; it's about knowledge.

"Those clouds know everything about you."

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