In 2013, national news was largely focused on Edward Snowden and his revelations on the secret surveillance programs carried out by the NSA. The information he exposed has rocked the public consciousness and ignited furious debate regarding government overreach, whistleblowing tactics, privacy, and data security, as well as cloud technology.
The devastating disclosures have caused nations, businesses and consumers to question whether their data that was stored in the cloud was secure. Some people erroneously believe that whistleblowing involves hacking or unauthorized access to confidential data, which leads to unwarranted mistrust in cloud technology. Others are concerned about the level of access that government agencies have to their data.
Whether or not technology companies were complicit in the data-gathering, businesses and consumers are demanding better security practices to protect confidential information in the cloud. The situation is further exacerbated by the general organizations’ general sentiment that they do not have control over their own data since they are no longer located on company-owned servers. Although some fears are misplaced, the cloud computing reputation has suffered quite a bit in the last year.
Not many people have taken the time to consider whether or not cloud computing has actually complicated whistleblowing. People like Edward Snowden who intentionally reveal classified information, usually illegal or unethical practices, face considerable danger of retaliation by the corporation or government agency of which they are exposing. Large multinational organizations have the resources to overwhelm whistleblowers with legal fees and lawsuits. Governments can even jail whistleblowers on ambiguous charges.
There are laws to protect whistleblowers from such repercussions but the massive adoption of cloud technology can make it difficult for courts to uphold such laws. Jurisdiction is very important when it comes to determining the application of laws, and cloud technology complicates it even more because of international laws and multinational corporations.
Cloud technology allows businesses to store data in such a way that it is accessible from any device that is connected to the internet. In many cases, the servers may be located in foreign countries. Different laws may be applicable, depending factors such as the location of the company’s headquarters, the employee, how the information was obtained, and when/where the transactions in question occurred. When cloud data is stored on servers in another continent and operated by a foreign company, it becomes even more difficult to determine which laws should govern the case.
American authorities have frequently taken action against foreign companies based on whistleblower revelations. But a recent court ruling states that US law cannot extend protection to foreign nationals against retaliation by foreign companies outside the US. Details of a case can seem simple but the issue becomes much more problematic when cloud computing is involved.
For example, what happens when a foreign national accesses data stored on servers that are owned by an American company in the US, or vice-versa? Would American courts be able to protect whistleblowers in such scenarios? Though cloud computing has rapidly spread to numerous companies , international laws have failed to keep up. Situations like whistleblowing controversies highlight the growing gap between laws and technology, a situation that needs to be rectified sooner rather than later.