How safe is your data on cloud-based technology services?

Consider the following trends forecasted by IDC, Gartner, Microsoft and other research consultancies recently:

  • Morgan Stanley predicts Microsoft cloud products will be 30% of revenue by 2018
  • In 2015, Amazon Web Services generated $7.88B in revenue with Q4 2015, up 69% over last year
  • Worldwide spending on public cloud services will grow at a 19.4% compound annual growth rate from nearly $70B in 2015 to more than $141B in 2019.

But, a very dark cloud of uncertainty has hung over this growth and optimism for the last couple of years. American technology giants have been embroiled in a power struggle with the United States government over when authorities get to see and use the digital data that the companies collect.

In late 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice served Microsoft with a criminal search warrant under the Stored Communications Act, seeking all content associated with a specific email account held on the company’s servers in Dublin.

Microsoft refused, claiming that the emails belong to the user and not to Microsoft. John Frank, Microsoft’s vice president for EU government affairs, said in an interview; “When a person stores his or her most personal information in the cloud, it should be entitled to the same protection as the same information stored on paper in a desk drawer, or in a sealed letter, or on the hard drive of a computer.”

You can see the implications here if you are considering cloud-based services for your business. Having your own or your customers’ private and confidential data at risk may be a deal breaker, no matter what the cost saving and other benefits may be.

However, in a recent case (Warrant to Search a Certain E-Mail Account Controlled and Maintained by Microsoft Corp, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 14-2985), Microsoft successfully prevented the U.S. government from forcing them to hand over emails stored on Microsoft owned servers outside the United States. The case had widespread implications for the growing cloud-based technology industry. Had the United States government been successful, private data stored on U.S. company owned servers could be seized by American courts.

This does create an adverse effect where authorities are unable to access data which may assist in the investigation of criminal activities, but other avenues,such as bilateral agreements between nations, exist which can be pursued.