Cloud computing in your forecast? New guidance helps balance the benefits and risks

July 5, 2012 - Tags: Innovation E-business Managing

This guest post is provided by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner who protects and promotes the privacy rights of individuals.

The word cloud has taken on new meaning in the 21st century. In millennia past, a cloud simply brought shade, showers or storms.  Today, the cloud helps businesses realize IT cost savings, but may also put customer and client privacy - and therefore your reputation - at risk.

The business benefits of cloud services are clear. They can result in savings, as a business may not need to buy information technology infrastructure, or hardware or software licences. They can also enable a business to store data offsite with the ability to access it over the Internet from the office, home or virtually anywhere. But there are also legal and reputational risks that any business needs to consider.

New guidance released by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and Offices of the Information and Privacy Commissioners of Alberta and British Columbia seek to help you better understand the legal obligations that come with some cloud services that lurk beyond the surface. It makes it clear that:

  • Even though you may be entrusting a cloud service provider with data storage, you remain accountable for the security of your customer and client data.
  • It's important to have a contract in place and to carefully read its terms and conditions to prevent the possibility of some cloud service providers subjecting the information you provide to secondary uses, which your customers or clients may not consent to and find unnerving.
  • Many cloud service providers store data on servers located outside Canada – and in some cases where privacy laws may be weaker. At the end of the day, under Canadian private sector privacy laws, your business remains responsible for ensuring your data is protected to a level expected under Canadian privacy law.  

If you're thinking about jumping into the cloud and wish to look before you leap, give the guidance a read.

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